Shield Nickels with Rays were made only in 1866 and 1867. Problems had developed in striking the coins with proper detail due to the hard nickel composition. It was believed that the rays which appeared between the thirteen stars on the reverse of the coin contributed to the problem by taking metal flow that would have struck up details on the obverse of the coin.
All 1866 Shield Nickels were struck using the original design including the rays between the stars. The modification to the reverse design was made during the second year of the series, leading the coins to be produced either with or without rays.
Although circulation strikes of the 1867 Shield Nickel with Rays and without Rays carry only small differences in pricing, in proof format, the coins struck “with rays” are a major rarity. An estimated 15 to 20 pieces are known to exist, from an unknown original mintage. John Dannreuther has done extensive research on the uses of dies and has concluded that several dies were used, in different die states.
In July 2010, an example of the 1867 Shield Nickel with Rays graded PF 65 Cameo by NGC sold at auction for $57,500.