The George V nickel series extends from 1922 through 1936. For mint state collectors it is a series that is a challenge. There are two reasons. First it is a difficult series to grade. Second, true mint state examples are very hard to find, especially in grades at or higher than MS-63. When high grade MS-63 or better coins are offered in the marketplace they are likely under appreciated as well as being undervalued. This article explores the grading and pricing/rarity aspects of this series.
To be an effective grader of uncirculated George V nickels, it is important to appreciate that nickel is a very hard metal. Consequently any damage you might detect on a specific coin suggests the coin has been exposed to some real punishment in terms of contact with other coins or a result of circulation. You may also find it hard to tell “at a glance” those examples that just border on circulated versus uncirculated grades, as you might in the case of silver coins. When grading coins in this series first understand what constitutes a weak strike, typical strike and one that is full. One good indication is to examine the four pairs of jewels on the lower band of the King’s crown. The second pair from the front are the ones to study. If they are not fully separated (as seen by the naked eye) then consider this to be a weak strike. A typical strike will show both of these to be separated, but under magnification none or both of the jewels will not be fully formed or rounded. A full strike will show a full and complete form for the latter. It is not surprising then that newcomers to this area will often look upon weakly struck but true mint state coins as being circulated. Weak detail is confused with wear. To properly respect the meaning of “full strike” it is instructive to examine a specimen strike, especially those other than 1922.
When grading mint state silver coins, graders focus on the coin’s surfaces and lustre. Strike is usually a secondary matter of concern. That’s different with the George V nickel issues. The focus is on surfaces and strike. Lustre is secondary, partly because it doesn’t vary that much or add much to the overall pleasant eye appeal of the coin. Generally it tends to be a dull, gray, matte finish. Sometimes prooflike finishes occur and the coin will take on a special look. Attempts at putting a nice mint state date set of these coins together requires a great deal of patience, especially if the target grade is in the MS-64 or MS-65 range. Consider some of the data shown in the accompanying table. Each of the dates in this series is listed in. order of the actual number of coins certified by ICCS in mint state condition, the lowest coming before the highest. For example ICCS has certified only three 1925 nickels in grades MS-60 or higher. The highest grade assigned is MS- 63. On the other hand, there have been 40 certified mint state examples for 1928, the highest being MS-65. Note from the listing that the only dates for which MS-65 or higher has been assigned are 1928, 1932, 1935 and 1936. That’s it!
Furthermore this represents almost seven years of grading activity. Obviously this is one of the reasons these coins are rarely available in the marketplace. Shown also in the table is a listing of prices from the Canadian Coin News Trends for MS-63 as well as estimates for MS-65 examples should they ever show up. However the latter may vary significantly upwards for those dates not yet certified above MS-63 or MS-64. Unquestionable this is a series requiring patience and determination. For the quality mint state collector wanting the best, focus on well-struck, problem-free MS-63 examples. Buy better examples when they appear but don’t frustrate yourself by expecting this to happen.