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MS64+ 1880 Shield Nickel
Lowest-Mintage Business Strike
Only 21,000 Business Strikes Produced

1880 5C MS64+ PCGS. Many of the supposedly "circulating" series of coinage denominations in the late 1870s, post-1877 or so, have extremely low mintages. This includes both the 1877 Indian cent -- with a recorded mintage of 852,500 pieces, the lowest cent mintage since 1823 -- and the 1880 Shield nickel. The reasons for this are complex, but they basically were the result of the Mint Act of 1871. In the late 1860s America was awash in small-denomination coinage, mostly one and two cent pieces. The Mint Act of 1871 provided for the redemption of minor coins of any denomination, which included not only the older big coppers -- large cents and half cents -- but also two cent pieces, small cents, three cent silvers, and three cent nickels. At first the Mint would melt all those older coins down and reissue them as new coinage, but it soon began simply operating as a clearinghouse for the backlog of minor coins, reissuing them side by side with newly minted coins. The effects of this were far-reaching, ultimately reducing the numbers of most business strike issues until the early 1880s.
The 1880 Shield nickel was one of those coinages, the lowest-mintage business strike in the entire series at 21,000 pieces. The Bowers Guide Book on Shield and Liberty nickels provides these criteria for unquestioned business strike 1880s, all of which are apparent on the present coin:

--Upper left outside of first S in STATES is repunched
--Tiny raised "island" appears in field below second T, the result of die pitting
--Tiny line or thorn projects into field from center of a dentil below space between T and S in CENTS

Bowers notes that only two obverse dies were produced for 1880, and both were "used intermittently for circulation and Proof strikes." On this piece, the first 8 grazes the ball of the ornament, and the inside of the second 8 shows repunching. This near-Gem piece is brilliant except a slight smudging of golden-gray on the right obverse margin and to the left of the date. The leaves are not quite fully struck and the fields, especially on the reverse, are semiprooflike, but there is absolutely no mistaking this piece for a proof. Population: 1 in 64+, 5 finer (4/11).(Registry values: N2998) (NGC ID# 276E, PCGS# 3810)

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Auction Dates
June, 2011
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 12
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