Shield Nickel Design Hubs

The master hubs for the shield nickel series underwent some subtle (and one not so subtle) redesigns during the lifetime of the series. In some years, multiple hubs were used. The ability to determine which hub produced a die can be extremely helpful in attributing shield nickel varieties in those years where multiple hubs were used.

There were three obverse design hubs, which this website designates Obverse A, Obverse B, and Obverse C in the order in which they were placed in production. All three may be found on business strike shield nickels. There are six reverse design hubs, which this website designates (roughly in order of their use) Ip, I, IIo, IIa, IIb, IIc. Only reverse hubs I, IIa, IIb, and IIc were used on business strike shield nickels - the other two hubs were proof only issues.

The production method used today for creating dies is as follows:

An important thing to understand about the mint's use of the design hubs in the shield nickel series is that it was not until the introduction of Obverse C and Reverse IIc in 1869 that the mint created master dies and working hubs. Prior to 1869 working dies were created directly from master hubs. So, features such as broken letters on coins prior to 1869 can be traced back directly to deterioration of the master hub, and such features can be used to place coins properly in an emission sequence. The reverse hub IIb has been studied in this manner by Dennis Paulsen with the results published in The Cherrypickers' Guide. For an alternative view of how shield nickel dies were prepared, see Q. David Bowers' book (bibliography below).

The following table summarizes all of the known hub pairings for shield nickels.

Year/Strike Obverse Reverse
1866 Proof Ap Ip
1866 Business A I
1867 with rays Proof and Business A I
1867 no rays Proofs



1868 Proofs A IIa
1868 Business (about 10% have the IIb reverse) A
1869 Proofs (all have wide date) A IIa
1869 Narrow date (Business strike only) A IIa
1869 Wide date (B/IIa combo is very rare) A
1870 Proofs B IIc
1870 Business (B/IIa combo exists only as a DDR IIa over IIc) B
1871 all B IIc
1872 Proofs C IIc
1872 Business (about 10% have the B obverse) B
1873 through 1883 all (1873 Proofs are all Closed 3) C IIc


Just to make things a little more confusing, various reference books use different nomenclature for the hubs. Here's a cross-reference table.

This Website Fletcher Bowers Peters & Mohon Other variants
Obverse Ap        
Obverse A Obverse A Style 1a Type I Notched arrow
Obverse B Obverse B Style 1b Type II Sliced arrow
Obverse C Obverse C Style 1c Type III Full arrow
Reverse Ip   Style A    
Reverse I Reverse I Style B Type A With rays
Reverse IIo   Style C    
Reverse IIa Reverse IIa Style D Type B Reverse of 1867, r67
Reverse IIb Reverse IIb Style E Type C Reverse of 1868, r68
Reverse IIc Reverse IIc Style F Type D Reverse of 1870**, r70


** Definitely a misnomer as the hub first appeared in 1869!

Shield Nickel Obverse Hubs

Shield Nickel Reverse Hubs


References to sources cited above:

The Cherrypickers' Guide to Rare Die Varieties (Fourth Edition Volume 1) by Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton, 2000 Stanton Books and Supplies, Savannah, GA.

The Complete Guide to Shield and Liberty Head Nickels by Gloria Peters and Cynthia Mohon, 1995 DLRC Press, Virginia Beach, VA.

The Official Red Book of Shield and Liberty Head Nickels by Q. David Bowers, 2005 Whitman Publishing LLC.

The Shield Five Cent Series by Edward L. Fletcher, 1994 Dead End Publishing, Ormond Beach, FL.


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Changes last made on: Tuesday September 6, 2016 16:47

This page copyright (C) 2004, 2005, 2016 by Howard Spindel. All rights reserved.