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SERIES: Shield Five Cents 1866-1883
LEVEL: Year, MintMark, & Major Variety

1866 5C Rays (Regular Strike)

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PCGS MS66+

PCGS MS66

PCGS MS66
PCGS #:
3790
Diameter:
20.50 millimeters
Designer:
James Barton Longacre
Weight:
1.94 grams
Edge:
Plain
Mintage:
14,742,500
Metal Content:
75% Copper, 25% Nickel
Auction Record:
$12,925 • PCGS MS66 • 7-17-2015 • Stack's/Bowers
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Rarity and Survival Estimates (Explain)
Grades Survival
Estimate 
Numismatic
Rarity 
Relative Rarity
By Type 
Relative Rarity
By Series 
All Grades 40,000 R-2.6 2 / 2 15 / 19 TIE
60 or Better 3,000 R-4.4 2 / 2 17 / 19 TIE
65 or Better 500 R-6.0 2 / 2 17 / 19
Condition Census (Explain) Show more rows
Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 MS66+ PCGS grade  
2 MS66 PCGS grade
2 MS66 PCGS grade
2 MS66 PCGS grade
2 MS66 PCGS grade  
Condition Census (Explain) Show fewer rows
Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 MS66+ PCGS grade  
2 MS66 PCGS grade
2 MS66 PCGS grade
2 MS66 PCGS grade
2 MS66 PCGS grade  
2 MS66 PCGS grade  
2 MS66 PCGS grade  
2 MS66 PCGS grade  
2 MS66 PCGS grade  
2 MS66 PCGS grade  

Ron Guth: In 1866, the U.S. government introduced a new 5 Cent piece made of nickel as an alternative for the silver Half Dime.  The two coins were issued side-by-side through 1873, after which the Half Dime was discontinued and the "Nickel" became the coin of the land.  The new metal, because it was so hard, made it difficult to strike the coins, and the dies suffered frequent cracking.  Part of the problem was the intricate reverse, where stars were squeezed tightly between each of the rays (ultimately, the stars became part of the solution, because in 1867, the stars were removed from the dies mid-year).

High grade examples of this first-year-of-issue are readily available in grades all the way up to MS66, where PCGS has graded nearly 30 examples.  As already mentioned, collectors should seek out well-struck examples (to the extent they are available), and avoid examples with natural flaws or excessive and/or large carbon spots.