[The following excerpt is published courtesy of DLRC Press and its author, Gloria Peters & Cynthia Mohon. This information was originally published in 1995 in The Complete Guide to Shield and Liberty Head Nickels
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Credit for our writing this book goes to our friend Bruce Fox, author of The Complete Guide To Walking Liberty Half Dollars. Bruce recommended us as prospective authors to David Feigenbaum and his son John, who are respectively publisher/ editor and computer graphics/typesetter and layout artist for DLRC Press. The book was to be a double series and we were intrigued by the challenge.
Our goal in spending the tremendous time in research and development was to present both old and new material in a manner that was informative in as many areas as we thought collectors would want in a “complete” guide to the Shield and Liberty nickel series. Many of the peripheral interests related to nickel collecting could–and do–fill volumes in their own right. We described as much as space permitted and touch on errors, varieties and patterns–just to whet the reader’s interest. Collectors who would like to explore these specialization areas further will find a comprehensive bibliography and reference list.
We are always interested in learning more about numismatics and would appreciate information on discoveries and/or opinions on any subject we have presented. New finds will continue to be compiled and photographed with the eventual goal of an updated edition. Please write, telephone, fax or contact us at coin shows. We’d love to meet you and discuss coin collecting—especially nickels. We may even have some interesting debates.
This Guide is designed to be user friendly, informative to nickel collectors and educational without being dry.
The historical and designer chapters will bring you into the era of Shield and Liberty Head nickels. The Design/Hub chapter has photos to assist the collector in easy identification of the obverses and reverses. While working on the research, Cindy discovered a third master hub for the Liberty reverse.
Patterns are an integral, historical part of both series; and all Shield and Liberty patterns have been compiled and charted for easy reference. Our own frustration in attempting to price the pattern coinage (independent of hype) led us to compile a 20 year auction appearance chart and pricing history reflecting the highest prices realized during a specified period of time. This provides a useful reference.
Varieties are also an important part of both series with most collectors focusing on Shield nickels. Our research showed an amazing number of Liberty varieties just waiting to be “cherry-picked.” This book offers more than sixty (60) photos in the Liberty series alone, many from the collection of Joe Haney. As an easy reference guide for the variety buffs, we charted and correlated all published varieties to date (Breen, Fivaz/Stanton, Fletcher, and ours, P&M).
“The Dark Side of Numismatics” including counterfeits, altered coins and surfaces are candidly discussed. The manufacture of original racketeer nickels introduces Del Romines’ information on production methods used in 1883.
Sometimes it is difficult to tell a valuable business strike from a proof, particularly in the Shield series. We received requests to discuss this problem and to provide some input on techniques for separating the two types of coins. Knowledge in this area alone can save the collector not only money, but the feeling of being had. Advice was obtained from Rick Montgomery, PCGS authenticator/grader on this topic. Excellent edge photos from Tom Mulvaney to use as aids when buying “raw” coins in either Shield or Liberty nickels should be helpful in most cases.
Grading information was provided by graders from professional third party grading services at PCGS and NGC. These general guidelines were coupled with our own experience in providing a comprehensive grading section. We also researched and provide information related to the planchet production, and minting of the early nickels which will be helpful in understanding the effects of the production process on the coins’ appearances. Strike, spots, toning, materials used in manufacture, and the effect of the washing and reissue of Shield and early date Liberty nickels can be found in the “Factors That Affect The Quality of Shield and Liberty Nickels” section.
The Date and Mintmark Analysis chapter is the heart of the book and packed with information. Not all will agree that auction records are important in determining scarcity, but we chose to research 20 years of auction records, combined with other data to formulate the rank of each date within their individual series. Standard PCGS and NGC Population reports are also used for rarity ranking in each grade for both series. Estimated rarity for circulated coins is also included. Whether readers agree with our conclusions or not, the information is there for an independent decision if wanted. Past pricing history is included as are pertinent facts and pitfalls inherent in each date for Mint State and Proof coinage. Robert Julian, historian and researcher, added new information in number of dies used for many of the dates and shared information on mintage, based on his archival research.
Perhaps the most fun for us was adding the Historical Note section for each date. We tracked pertinent data via Mint Director Reports, including problems and improvements involved at the mint. Major historical events, prices and wages of the times, inflationary factors and much more are in this little section. With a touch of humor we traveled back in time with the five-cent Shield and Liberty nickel being our tour guides.
The 1913 nickel story is a segment by itself. From Eric P. Newman, noted educator and author, we discover what we believe to be the true story (even if not complete) of these classic pieces, including the diagnostics of each of the five nickels from the man who held them all… examined each… and recorded their differences. This nickel created in secrecy, shunned by many collectors when first offered for sale, has evolved in a short 80+ years into the desirable, and highly sought Queen of Numismatics.
We sincerely wish you the thrill of discovery and enjoyment in numismatics, now and in the future. It is our hope that the reader finds this book to be, as Ken Bressett so eloquently wrote in the Foreword, “a passport to the world of nickel collecting.”
Please contact us at:
P & M Rare Coins
14252 Culver, #490
Irvine, CA 92714
Fax (714) 559-0777