Shield Nickel Mintage

The Shield Nickel series began in 1866, introducing a new composition for the five cent piece. Until this point, five cent coins had a silver-based composition and were minted as half dimes. However, the May 16, 1866 Act authorized the Shield Nickel with a weight of five grams and a composition of copper and nickel. The United States Mint explored several different design options, and a considerable number of patterns were created by Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre before settling on Longacre’s Shield Nickel design.

1880 Shield Nickel
1880 Shield Nickel

The reverse contained a large numeral five surrounded by stars with rays between the stars for 1866 and the early mintage of 1867. The obverse features a large shield with a cross at the top and laurel branches to the sides. The shield contains thirteen vertical stripes bound by an upper section of horizontal lines, representing the unity of the states leading to the strength of the federal government. A pair of crossed arrows are also visible behind the shield’s base. In 1883, the design was replaced with the Liberty Nickel design, created by Charles Barber.

Shield Nickel Notes:

  • There were sixteen different years when circulation strike coins were produced. This includes the dates from 1866 to 1876 and from 1879 to1883. For 1877 and 1878, Proof coins were produced even though coins were not minted for circulation.
  • The total number of coins struck for circulation was 128,017,100.
  • A number of 1866 Shield Nickels were minted with a Repunched Date and are included in the mintage of the 1866 Rays Shield Nickel.
  • The highest mintage occurred for the 1867 No Rays Shield Nickel with 28,890,500 coins produced for circulation.
  • The lowest circulation mintage occurred for the 1880 Shield Nickel with just 16,000 coins produced.
  • The average annual mintage was 8,001,069. This is computed based on the annual totals for each year when circulating coins were produced.

Shield Nickel Mintages:

1866 Rays14,742,500
1866 Proof Rays600+
1867 Rays2,019,000
1867 Proof Rays25+
1867 No Rays28,890,500
1867 Proof No Rays600+
1868 Proof600+
1869 Proof600+
1870 Proof1,000+
1871 Proof960+
1872 Proof950+
1873 Close 3436,050
1873 Proof Close 31,100+
1873 Open 34,113,950
1874 Proof700+
1875 Proof700+
1876 Proof1,150+
1877 Proof900
1878 Proof2,350
1879 Proof3,200
1880 Proof3,955
1881 Proof3,575
1882 Proof3,100
1883 Proof5,419