1912-S Liberty Nickel

The San Francisco Mint almost missed the boat in 1912, waiting until the last week of the year to commence striking of the Liberty nickel. The 1912-S was the first and only Liberty nickel to bear the “S” mintmark.(1)

With such a short production window, the 1912-S nickel had a mintage of only 238,000 pieces, by far the lowest regular-issue date of the series, instantly making it a “must have” date for savvy collectors of the day.

The profile of the 1912-S got a boost when coin boards were introduced in the 1930s. There were still a few of them circulating at the time, but the obvious challenge in finding an example to fill a board slot heightened its appeal.

This also explains why the survivorship rate of the 1912-S is multiple times higher than the other Liberty nickel key dates of 1885 and 1886 (which had vanished from sight by the time coin boards caught on).

Most 1912-S Liberty nickels are softly struck compared to those from the Philadelphia Mint. The differences are most readily discernible in the hair above Liberty's forehead and on the ear of corn on the left side of the reverse.(2) Sharply struck specimens do exist,(3) however, and command premiums.

Fascinating Fact: The very first 1912-S coin to roll off the coin press was spent by the mayor of San Francisco to pay a fare, marking the opening of the new Municipal Railway. The special nickel was given to the city treasurer for safeguarding but went missing long ago.(4) Assuming the Mint State coin was well protected, it would today be worth around $5,000.(5)

Despite recent setbacks in pricing, the 1912-S nickel brings joy to the heart of a collector in a way non-collectors could never understand. Yea verily, a rare, key date coin elevates the heart rate every time. Become a collector and experience it for yourself!

Estimated survivors in all grades: 5000
? 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: 4.0
? 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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1912-S Liberty nickel photos 1912-S Liberty nickel pricing history
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1. NGC.  1912 S 5C MS.

2. PCGS.  1912-S 5C (Regular Strike).

3. Heritage Auctions.  1912-S 5C.  Sep 2005 Auction.

4. NGC.  1912 S 5C MS.

5. Gibbs, William T., Managing Editor.  Coin World Domestic Values.  Sidney, OH. Amos Media Company. 2023.

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Coin images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.