Coin Values Moving with Precious Metals: Up-Dated 4/8/2024: Gold $2332 | Silver $27.61


1902 Nickel Value

1902 nickel value, as seen on the chart, reflects its "common" status within the Liberty nickel series. Many of these were produced and remained in circulation for an extended period of time. However, the abundant availability factor changes quickly to a "difficult" coin to find with subtle details of the design visible.

Higher end quality coins are worth notably strong premiums. Here is where a defined process covers all the key features needed to recognize an accurate reading of the value chart. Steps to value are followed below.

Obverse and Reverse View of a 1902 Liberty Nickel

Steps Leading to Value:

  • Step 1: Date Identified - The different dates of the Liberty Nickel series are all unique in their value profiles. A careful notation is done for completeness.
  • Step 2: Grading Condition - Judging condition of these older nickels is major factor to their descriptions. Classifications of condition are assigned a "Grade" used in the coin market and appearing on both price and value charts.
  • Step 3: Special Qualities - With the importance of identifying features of high quality, a close-up inspection of design elements furthers the evaluation.
1902 Nickel Value
 Condition of Coin
DateGoodFineExtremely
Fine
Mint
State
Liberty Nickel Value Updated 2024
1902 $1.32 $3.71 $24 $64

Read the value chart as a range of wholesale values for these Liberty nickels. Any large change from one condition category to the next is dependent on subtle grading points. Eye appeal is very important to market acceptance of any coin.

Step 1: An Accurate Date is Important to the Coin Market

Close-Up View of 1902 Date Liberty Nickel

As the primary coinage facility, the Philadelphia mint struck all nickel coinage at the time. A substantial year for the mint, as production of 1902 nickels continued that year until over 31 million were minted. This was a very large number for the series, becoming the fourth largest. Starting as an abundant date, these are still considered abundant currently. These remain affordable to all hobbyists in very worn to moderately worn condition. Reconfirm the date and begin an essential evaluation of condition.

Step 2: | Grading Condition to Recognize Quality

Separating the Average 1902 Nickel from High Collector Quality and Value

All U.S. coinage is closely examined determining their state of preservation. This is a compelling part of the coin hobby. A study of the Liberty series shows above average coins, examples with most of the original details remaining as scarce. Special attention is given to condition as demand from the market is focused on these quality examples.

Grading places a classification on the condition of each coin. These "Grades" are a definition separating stages of wear. Grades are then used in the coin market when providing a description of a coin. Using the images provided below, compare your coin to these different grades.

Mint State Grade

Image of Mint State Liberty Nickel

Mint State: A Liberty nickel in Mint State condition has not received any wear to its surface. This is a key point when determining this grade. Looking at the design of these nickels, many fine details with high and low levels of contours are available, assisting in judging faint or obvious signs of wear.

One key feature is the height of the hair tied at the back of Liberty's head in relation to the rest of the design. High in profile, and finely detailed strands of hair are the first to show the effects of wear. Tilt the coin under a single light, focusing on the top edges of hair strands. Any wear both smooths the metal and removes the original mintage luster.

Second feature helping identify the highest quality mint condition are very small details of the wheat grains, part of many details above Liberty's headband. These small grains remain fully rounded and lustrous. Even the smallest amount of deterioration from circulation tends to show on the grains, a very high point of the design. An important grade for collectors and the coin market.

Extremely Fine Grade

Liberty Nickel Graded Extremely Fine Condition

Extremely Fine: Well within an elusive condition is a 1902 nickel displaying small intricate details. Light wear noted on many high areas, and just slightly smoothing the design, defines the grade of Extremely Fine. Two areas are used in determining this collector quality grade.

First to inspect is the hair just above Liberty's eye. Fine lines are just now disappearing and are disconnected within the wave of hair. This small area does remain well defined as a hair line to the forehead. Importantly, no widespread areas of smoothness connect.

Secondly, the tie of hair at the back displays a central flattened area. Faint traces of hair lines indicate a loss of detail. Again, there is no merging of the hair waves above or below the central area.

Liberty's cheek and neck are somewhat smoothed, losing the brilliance of luster. Additionally, just above the date is the beginning of a clear flattened area, remaining at the front of the bust line.

Crisp details visibly raise the appeal to collectible status. A nice old nickel awarded a nice premium.

Fine Grade

Image to Judge Fine Grade Condition Liberty Nickel

Fine Grade: A nice, attractive coin is a representative of the Fine grade condition. A moderate amount of wear is offset by the amount of remaining detail. Moderate wear helps define the grade. A 1902 nickel is this condition remains affordable; however, a few features are necessary to achieve the grade.

Using the lettering of LIBERTY found in the headband gives a starting point for judging. A strong requirement is all letters are visible. Faintness of the "I" is expected, it is located at one of the highest features of the design. The smoothness of the metal below the headband is limiting the grade. This smoothness is an indication of the moderate wear rating, judged by the amount of metal removed.

Adding to the eye appeal are small but distinct lines showing details of hair waves behind her ear. Combining the level of detail in the wreath, wheat grains and cotton leaves visible, confirms a pleasing Fine grade Liberty nickel.

Good Grade

Liberty Nickel Example Good Grade Condition

Good Grade: An unmistakable flat, smooth portrait is the remaining level of detail found on Good grade Liberty nickels. Despite this amount of wear, a few features are important to keeping these coins within the grade.

Completeness of outlines is needed to qualify for Good grade status. First, all of Liberty is fully outlined, including the area towards the back of her head. Often, this area in the back is soft, beginning an unacceptable merging with the field of the coin. Second, all stars are complete, entirely separate from the rim. Stars blending with the rim or the field lowers the condition below the Good grade. Third, a defined inner edge of the rim, defines the condition. Many of the coins show the rim weak in areas and missing, thus lowering their appeal. With these features full and complete, the date is inspected confirming all digits are bold.

A coin meeting the Good quality requirements stands out as a complete coin, with no major design features missing. The Liberty series design holds up well to heavy wear. A pleasing example of an old nickel series.

How to Video: Grading Liberty Nickels

With a focus on the subtle features needed to recognize higher quality, review both the video, and additional close-up images. Added experience in the examination process improves the eye's ability to spot key elements of the design.

Grading Liberty Nickels | How to Video and Descriptions

Step 3: | Special Qualities | Visible Detail of LIBERTY

Small Details of LIBERTY Adds to Market Value

There are a few dates in the Liberty nickel series considered common. 1902 with its over 31 million mintage total, is well within in this category. It has proven an available date, however, enjoys a strong following with new and beginning collectors. A nice run of dates from 1900 to 1912 is often a starter collection for many hobbyists. The coin market, with its favorable premiums, indicates this common status in the lower, very worn condition, specifically the Good grade.

Breaking away from the typical average condition is first noticed with the appearance of the lettering of LIBERTY. These small letters found in the headband show a typical wear pattern of missing in the center first. As additional wear takes place, and the height of the metal is reduced, letters moving outward begin to fade. Eventually, as Liberty's portrait becomes flat, all traces of her headband disappear along with the lettering.

Levels of Wear Illustrated on Liberty NickelsLetters Used as Indications of Wear and Grade

Using the visibility of just the lettering "LIBERTY" is a quick assessment of condition. No visible letters confidently place the coin well within the common average quality. This is the condition of the first coin.

Market demand begins to grow stronger as more letters become plainly visible. Next is all the lettering visible, however, the "I" is definitely less distinct. Additionally, the lower edge of the headband appears less than crisp. This condition is still somewhat lower quality for the 1902 nickels. Market value and demand is reflected in the affordable premium.

With the close-up view, the Extremely Fine example really stands out as finely detailed. Wear is evident, although the lettering is sharp and remains deeply impressed. The surface remains contoured and has not been reduced to any great extent. A nicely defined lower edge to the band is a plus. This coin is easily considered as special quality.

Ending the examples with a Mint State coin shows the design in full. Bold letters with a complete, undisturbed hair curl are recognizable just along a sharp lower edge to the band. A nice looking, special nickel. Complete details, Mint State grade, and a top-quality coin, in steady demand with solid market value.

Just the presence of LIBERTY begins to move a 1900s nickel into a collector quality range. Subtle sharpness of these letters and surrounding headband raises the quality even higher, along with scarcity.

References

U.S. Mint. 1903 U.S. Mint Annual Report https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/514125
U.S. Mint. Catalogue of Coins of the United States. https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/554591

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