Ron Guth: In 1883, the Philadelphia Mint produced three different types of Nickels. The first was the Shield Nickel, the last of its kind. The second was the Liberty Head type, but there was a problem -- the word CENTS was missing from the back of the coin, creating an opportunity for disreputable individuals to gold-plate them and attempt to pass them off as $5 gold pieces. The third was the Liberty Head type, now with the word CENTS added to the reverse.
The mintage of the 1883 Shield Nickel was over 1.45 million, placing it in the upper half of the series in terms of raw rarity. However, many of the coins were saved as souvenirs of the last year of issue or by collectors who hoped that they might be rare someday. Thus, this date is very common in all Mint State grades up to, and including, MS66. Above that level, there are only nine PCGS MS67s, and none finer. As usual, even in the last year of issue, die cracking continued to be a problem.