1886 Liberty Nickel

There are three key dates in the Liberty nickel series of 1883-1913: they are the 1885, 1886, and 1912-S.(1) (We’re not considering the 1913 because a) it was not struck through normal channels, and b) with only five known examples, it is virtually uncollectible)(2)

Of these three, the 1885 by far enjoys the highest profile, but upon closer analysis, one must conclude the 1886 is a darn good coin too.

The rarity of both dates is tied to the weak state of the American economy in 1885. Demand for nickels had fallen dramatically by then, exasperated by the glut of the five-cent coins already on hand.(3)(4)

In March 1885, the Treasury department suspended nickel production because there was no need for additional mintage. This order remained in place until late 1886. With only a small window of opportunity, relatively few 1886 Liberty nickels were struck.(5)

Price trends for the 1886 have not been strong for over a decade. Even for a bona fide key date, this sort of thing often happens in the world of coin collecting. The sluggish behavior of the 1886 nickel also occurred around 1965-1975, only to refuel and rocket higher in subsequent years.

Make no mistake about it, because of the numismatic bedrock upon which it sits, the 1886 will not remain moribund forever. Someday it will discover its mojo and it’ll be blast-off time once again!

One more note – the 1886 nickel is affordable for even collectors of modest means. It’s not all that often a key date coin with a rich legacy is within fairly easy striking distance.

Estimated survivors in all grades: 8000
? The survivor estimate from PCGS represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in all grades. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Learn more at PCGS.
PCGS Rarity Scale: 3.4
? The 'PCGS CoinFacts Rarity Scale' assesses the relative rarity of all U.S. coins, based on estimated surviving examples. The scale runs from 1.0 to 10.0. The higher the number, the rarer the coin.
Learn more at PCGS.
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1886 Liberty nickel images key date 1886 Liberty nickel value trends
Trendline Avg = 7.58 CLASSIC RARITY
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1. PCGS.  1886 5C (Regular Strike).

2. PCGS.  Type 2, With "CENTS".

3. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1885 Liberty Nickel.  Nov 2015 Auction.

4. NGC.  1885 5C MS.

5. Heritage Auctions.  1886 5C.  Feb 2010 Auction.

**Many very fine coin dealers sell on eBay. At any point in time, there may be over one million search results for United States coins. This includes quite a few of the recommendations on our Key Date Coin List.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a rare coin, eBay is certainly worth a look. For your convenience, the links from this site to eBay are coded to bring up only coins certified by PCGS and NGC.

As is always, always the case, never buy a valuable coin from a seller whose trustworthiness cannot be verified. Learn more about this at our chapter Best Places to Buy Coins, which also has a section on doing business on eBay.

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Coin images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.