How to grade Liberty Head Nickels?

  • Good has no details in the head. LIBERTY is obliterated. The wreath is worn flat and not completely outlined.
  • Very Good has at least 3 letters visible in LIBERTY. Bottom of coronet and most hair details are worn smooth. The wreath shows only a bold outline.
  • Fine has all letters visible. Some details show in the curls and hair at the top of the head. Some detail in wreath is visible. Letters in motto are worn but clear.
  • Very Fine has a bold LIBERTY, including the letter “I”. ¾ of the hair details will show. Leaves in wreath are worn but ribs are visible.
  • Extremely Fine has LIBERTY showing sharply. There will be slight wear on the high points of the hair from the forehead to the ear. The corn grains at the bottom of the wreath are visible on the reverse. The high points of the wreath are lightly worn.
  • About Uncirculated shows only a trace of wear on the highest points of the hair above the left ear. A trace of wear will show on the corn ears. The lines in the corn will be clearly defined.
  • Uncirculated coins have no trace of wear and only light blemishes. Check the high points of the hair left of the ear and at the forehead. Also check the corn ears for detail.
credit to the National Numismatic CollectionNational Museum of American History.

For the lesser grades.

the focus is on the number of letters visible in “LIBERTY” on the coronet of the obverse and in the hair. In finer grades, the corn grains and wreath are also taken into consideration.

Liberty Head Nickel Obverse – BU

This is a nice example of the 1883 No Cent variety. Notice that the coronet is well defined and all letters in LIBERTY show clearly. The hair shows strong detail from the front of the forehead to the back of the head. The hair left of the ear is strongly detailed and shows no sign of wear.

Liberty Head Nickel Obverse – AU

On this 1907 About Uncirculated example, you should notice the slight wear on the hair above the forehead. Some detail in the hair is also lost in the hair to the left of the ear. There also appears to be some loss of detail in the hair towards the back of head, in the bun. The coronet is still well defined and all letters in LIBERTY are bold.

Liberty Head Nickel Reverse – BU

On the reverse, check for wear on the high points of the wreath, the corn ears and lines in the corn. Notice all details are strong on this example. The corn grains at the bottom of the wreath are clearly defined. The detail in the corn ears strong with the lines showing clearly. The high points of the wreath show no wear.

Liberty Head Nickel  Reverse – AU

Notice the slight amount of wear on the high points of the wreath. The bow has lost a little detail. The corn grains at the bottom of the wreath are clearly defined but the detail in the corn ears are a bit weak with the lines not as clear as the coin above. The high points of the wreath show just a touch of wear.

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