Starting a Collection of Nickel Three Cent-Pieces

Question: I am getting ready to begin a collection of nickel three-cent pieces. I think this is a very interesting series. Is there a good book for me to buy to help? Do you have any guidelines for finding higher grade pieces? –D.W.

Answer: As to nickel three-cent pieces, in the 1980s I wrote a small book on nickel three-cent and five-cent pieces, part of the “Action Guide” series. This is out of print. You might borrow one from the ANA Library. I also encourage you to read the section on nickel three-cent pieces in Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, 1988; it gives a lot of good background information as well.

As to high grade pieces, if you are seeking Mint State coins, those from 1865 and the next several years are readily available, as are 1881, 1888, and 1889. For most of the later dates, Proofs are easy enough to find, but Mint State coins are rare. Most Mint State coins from 1865 to 1876 have striking problems, etc., so cherrypicking is needed for quality. Mint State coins after 1878 are usually sharply struck and very nice.

As to Proofs, the rarest is 1865, followed by 1887 (perfect date, not overdate). Proofs from 1865 to 1876 can be of indifferent quality in sharpness, etc., with truly choice Gems being in the minority of available coins. For issues 1877 to 1889, Proofs are usually very nice, with few problems. As is true of most 19th-century series, cherrypicking for quality really pays, so be aware of striking quality, eye appeal, and other factors.

Happy Collecting,

Q. David Bowers

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