9 American Nickels of Great Value in Circulation


Though it wasn’t the nation’s initial five-cent coin, the nickel has a long history in the United States. That distinction belongs to a “half-dime” that was introduced in 1794. According to the U.S. Mint, the original 5-cent pieces were not even made of nickel; instead, they were made of gold, silver, or copper.

Not until 1866 was the modern American nickel developed. Should you be fortunate enough to find an early or uncommon edition, you may become thousands, or even millions, of dollars richer.

The American Bullion website states that the first nickels were made between 1866 and 1883 and were referred to as “Shield nickels.” The Liberty Head (1883–1913), Buffalo or Indian Head (1913–1938), and Jefferson nickel (1938–present) followed those.

Older, pre-World War I mintages are probably where you’ll discover the most valuable nickels in terms of both rarity and worth. However, as American Bullion pointed out, in order to save nickel for the war effort, some expensive variants coined during World War II (1942–1945) can also be found. In addition, some mistake nickels, such as “overdate” nickels, in which the current year is stamped over a previous year, may command a high premium.

The 1913 Liberty Head Nickel, dubbed one of the “most legendary and mysterious” coins in American history by American Bullion, is by far the most valuable nickel ever made. There is a rumor that the coin was made illegally because it was manufactured during the Liberty Head to Buffalo nickel switch. There are just five known examples of 1913 Liberty Head nickels, and they were never formally distributed. They are currently valued at about $3 million.

It is unlikely that you will ever find a Liberty Head Nickel from 1913. However, there are other ones that are in circulation with high valuations that are far below $3 million. These are nine of them, with American Bullion’s estimated values. Remember that the greatest prices will only be paid for coins that are in excellent condition.

  • 1926-S Buffalo Nickel: $4,200
  • 1916 Double Die Buffalo Nickel: $3,800
  • 1918/17-D Buffalo Nickel (overdated):$3,500
  • 1879 Shield Nickel: $2,400
  • 1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo Nickel: $2,000
  • 1880 Shield Nickel: $2,000
  • 1942-P Jefferson Nickel: $800
  • 1950-D Jefferson Nickel: $600-$800
  • 1939 “Doubled Monticello:” $500
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