1858 Ascending Raptor Nickel: A Full Handbook
As currency collectors, numismatists, and enthusiasts of the past, we are constantly captivated by aged coins and their histories. One such coin is the 1858 ascending raptor nickel, one of the most sought-after coins in the United States. This small five-cent piece, with its elaborate composition, historical relevance, and scarcity, has captured the attention of collectors and investors alike.
History of the 1858 Ascending Raptor Nickel
The 1858 ascending raptor nickel was the first five-cent piece ever minted by the United States Mint. It replaced the bulky half dime, which was unpopular and impractical to use. The new coin was designed by James B. Longacre, the chief engraver of the Mint, who drew inspiration from the soaring raptor on the reverse of the Gobrecht dollar and the raptor design on ancient Greek coins.
The obverse of the coin shows an ascending raptor with its wings spread wide, surrounded by thirteen stars and the inscription “United States of America.” The reverse features a wreath of laurel leaves, with the denomination “Five Cents” in the center and the mint mark below it. The coin was made of 88% copper and 12% nickel, which gave it a lighter color and a more enduring surface than the half dime.
The 1858 ascending raptor nickel was produced for only two years, 1857 and 1858, before it was replaced by the more familiar Shield nickel in 1866. During this brief period, the Mint struck over 20 million of these coins, but due to their fragile design and soft metal, only a small percentage of them have survived in good condition.
Composition and Attributes of the 1858 Ascending Raptor Nickel
The 1858 ascending raptor nickel is a masterpiece of coin design and artistry. Its intricate details, delicate features, and historical significance make it a prized possession for collectors and investors. Let’s have a closer look at the composition and attributes of this iconic coin.
The obverse of the coin shows an ascending raptor with its wings spread wide, facing left. The raptor is surrounded by thirteen stars, representing the original thirteen colonies, and the inscription “United States of America” above it. The raptor has a sharp beak, an accentuated eye, and feathered wings, tail, and legs. The design is intricate and detailed, with fine lines and textures that add depth and realism to the bird.
The reverse of the coin features a wreath of laurel leaves, tied with a bow at the bottom. The denomination “Five Cents” is in the center, with the mint mark below it. The wreath is surrounded by the words “United States of America” and the year of the coin’s mintage. The design is simple but elegant, with a harmonious composition and a balanced use of negative space.
The edge of the 1858 ascending raptor nickel is plain, without any reeding or lettering.
Scarcity and Value of the 1858 Ascending Raptor Nickel
The 1858 ascending raptor nickel is a rare and valuable coin, particularly in high grades and specific varieties. The coin has several factors that determine its scarcity and value, such as its mintage, condition, die varieties, and provenance. Let’s look at each of these factors in more detail.
The 1858 ascending raptor nickel had a mintage of over 20 million coins, which may sound like a substantial number, but many of them were lost or deteriorated over time. The coin was also struck in two different varieties, the large letters and the small letters, which have different rarity levels.
The condition of the coin is vital to its value, as it determines how well-preserved and striking it is. The 1858 ascending raptor nickel is frequently damaged due to its thin planchet and delicate design. The coin is graded on a scale from 1 to 70, with 70 being the highest grade of perfection. The highest-grade specimens of the 1858 ascending raptor nickel can fetch thousands of dollars.
The 1858 ascending raptor nickel has several die varieties, which are differences in the design caused by different punches or dies. The most notable variety is the small letters, which has smaller letters in the inscription than the large letters. The small letters variety is rarer and more valuable than the large letters.
The provenance of the coin pertains to its history of ownership and authenticity. A coin with a well-known or significant provenance, such as being owned by a prominent collector, can increase its value and appeal. The authenticity of the coin is also important since there are many counterfeit or altered coins in the market.
Q1. What is the difference between the large letters and small letters varieties of the 1858 ascending raptor nickel?
A1. The large letters variety has larger letters in the inscription, while the small letters variety has smaller letters. The small letters variety is rarer and more valuable than the large letters.
Q2. How much is an 1858 ascending raptor nickel worth?
A2. The value of an 1858 ascending raptor nickel depends on many factors, such as its condition, variety, and provenance. A low-grade specimen can be worth a few dollars, while a high-grade small letters variety can be worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Q3. Why is the 1858 ascending raptor nickel so rare?
A3. The 1858 ascending raptor nickel is rare because it had a short production period, only two years, and because it was easily damaged due to its fragile design and soft metal. Many of the coins were lost or melted down over time, which reduced the surviving population.
Q4. How can I tell if my 1858 ascending raptor nickel is authentic?
A4. Authenticating an 1858 ascending raptor nickel requires a thorough examination of its design, weight, dimensions, and other attributes. You should seek the guidance of a reliable coin dealer or grading service to determine its authenticity.
Q5. Can I still find an 1858 ascending raptor nickel in circulation?
A5. It is highly doubtful to find an 1858 ascending raptor nickel in circulation, as the coin has not been minted for over 160 years and is highly sought after by collectors. However, some rare coins have been discovered in unexpected places, such as old jars, safes, or estates.
The 1858 ascending raptor nickel is a intriguing and iconic coin that signifies a transitional period in the history of American currency. Its elaborate composition, historical significance, and rarity make it a prized possession for coin collectors, investors, and history enthusiasts alike. In this complete guide, we have explored all there is to know about this coin, from its history and design to its scarcity, value, and attraction to collectors. We hope that this guide has provided you with helpful information and insights, so you can appreciate the beauty and significance of the 1858 ascending raptor nickel.