The Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, in 1883, was Charles E. Barber. He was tasked with designing a new nickel coin to replace the Shield Nickel. Barber was obviously influenced by the old US Mint designs, and he scrapped Longacre’s Shield Designs and put Miss Liberty back on the obverse.
Also following tradition, the Roman Numeral for Five – V – was placed on the reverse inside of a wreath with “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM” on it.
What was missing was the word “CENTS” which allowed some enterprising individuals decided to fool the unsuspecting public into thinking this was a new $5 Gold piece, by simply gold-plating the coin. Later in the year 1883, the Mint changed the design on the reverse and added the word “CENTS.”
Unlike numerous other non-silver coins, as the new century dawned, the need for Nickel coins was high. Nickel street cars, nickel cigars, nickel coin-operated machines of all kinds were just becoming very popular. Merchants and the public clamored for these coins and many millions were produced.
During 1912, the branch Mint at San Francisco also started to strike nickel coins and that was the first and only year to have Liberty Nickels struck outside the Philadelphia Mint. The US Mint knew that a new design for the nickel was coming and so no 1913-dated Liberty Nickels were struck – except that at least 5 of these coins do exist. But dies had been prepared for the 1913-dated Liberty Nickel and several coins had been struck to test the die. The coin is today one of the great American coin rarities with examples in all grades commanding millions of dollars.