C0091 Proof Shield Nickel, 1867 NGC 5C PR66 Cameo with Rays
1867 5C Rays PR66 Cameo NGC. The rarity of the proof 1867 Rays nickel was known to collectors at an early date, and it appears that the Mint made a few unofficial restrikes after 1867, likely for sale at a profit to well-connected Philadelphia dealers. It is the key to the proof Shield Nickel set.
The elimination of the rays in the beginning of 1867 from both the proof and business strikes is subject to conjecture. Two common thoughts for their removal are the difficulties in getting proper strikes with the rays as the metal didn't flow evenly. The other is that the "stars and bars" were reminiscent of the Confederate flag which during the reconstruction period after the Civil War evoked an emotional reaction that angered the North.
The 1867 Rays nickel has a traditional proof mintage of 25 pieces, which presumably applies only to examples struck in early 1867. In the 2006 Guide Book of Shield and Liberty Head Nickels, Q. David Bowers estimates a mintage of around 55 proofs, however, it is well known that there have been many resubmissions.
NGC has certified 25 proof 1867 Rays nickels in all grades, none have been certified as Ultra Cameo. Three proofs are graded PR66 Cameo. Thus, it holds the honor of finest NGC-certified. The PCGS population is similar, with none encapsulated as Deep Cameo. The key date status of the proof 1867 Rays variety is unchallenged and remains in America's Top 100 Coins.
This flashy and intricately struck Premium Gem is unblemished and was re-certified in 2008. Always a chance for a one point upgrade at this level, the coin is a PQ specimen. (PCGS 66 Cameo 4, None finer; NGC 66 Cameo, 3 None finer) 03/08