Most coin collectors don’t think of Jefferson Nickels when the subject of rare and valuable coins come to mind. It’s understandable since the Jefferson series doesn’t boast any low mintage years or mints.
The closest they come is the 1938 and 1939-S, D, and those mintages are still in the millions. Now the proofs are a different matter but more on that later.
You can still buy a complete collection, including most proofs, for less than a couple hundred dollars. Brilliant uncirculated collections can fetch over $300, but that’s not where I am going with Jefferson Nickel values. No, there’s so much more to consider when cherry picking auctions or dealer’s inventory.
Full Steps And Gems
The most important aspect of Jefferson Nickels, no matter what date, mint or variety or if a proof or business strike, is the steps on the reverse of the Monticello. We’re talking value here and FS (full step) Jefferson Nickels are choice struck coins and command a higher premium than the weak steps.
Determining if the steps are fully struck is problematic for beginners but easier as your experience grows. Below is an images of an FS Jefferson. It’s usually the bottom steps that are not fully struck and some dates and mints are very rare with Full Steps. So keep every possible FS nickel you find. I provided an image, left, of a full step example for your reference.
Also, there’s two types for the steps called, Reverse Of 38, and Reverse of 1940. The reverse of 1938 and 1939 are wavy or referred to as “soft” and the 1940 steps are straighter and clean-cut. Also, there’s 1940 with reverse of 39′ and 1939 examples with reverse of 1940. Here’s an image of the 1938 Soft Reverse.
The next important aspect of collecting Jefferson Nickels thing is higher grade examples with FS and MS64 and up is a good grade to begin. You can find an image of an MS64 Jefferson Nickel here. It’s important to learn how to grade mint state nickels because this is where the higher premiums begin for common dates.
You can still find gem, FS, nickels in mint sets so that’s my first choice for cherry picking grades and FS examples. Also don’t pass up an original roll or mint sealed bag either. You just never know what you might find in bags and rolls. However, you must be weary of any unsearched rolls or bags and make sure you can trust the dealer.
Unsearched coins are still on the market but so are dealers who either don’t know they were searched before or don’t tell the complete truth about the matter. In addition, it’s not easy finding FS nickels that will grade MS64, but don’t despair. Their rarity determines their value, so it’s a good thing that it will take some time in searching.
Silver War Time
If you collect silver Jefferson Nickels don’t disappoint here either. The commonly called War Time Silver Nickels were minted from 1942-P-1945-S and all of them have a large mint mark, on the reverse, and above the Monticello Dome. Their planchets are composed of 35% silver, 56% copper and 9% manganese so they even have copper content as well.
Proofs And Matte Finish
This leads us to proof Jefferson Nickels from 1956 and earlier because most of them are extremely low mintage. However they can be purchased at reasonable premiums compared to other coin types with similar mintages. Also, DCAM (Deep Cameo) proofs demand a higher premium as well.
A further note, the Matte Finish nickels for 1994 and 1997 are valuable, and the 1997 has a mintage of only 25,000! Now that’s rare for any coin series, but you can still buy an example for around $250. A basement bargain value for such a low mintage. (Hint: You can buy them cheaper at ebay, here’s the link Matte Finish Jefferson Nickels)
The Special Mint Set (SMS) 1965-1967 Jefferson Nickels that have FS and or Cameo or DCAM are highly sought after and can still be discovered if you find sets that haven’t been cherry picked. One reason for this is that no proofs were struck for these years and SMS sets are the only way to get proof-looking examples.
Finally, you should look for varieties like D/S or S/D since there’s many different for several dates and mints. The 1949-D D over S, 1946-D/Horizontal D, 1942-D Over Horizontal D, are the most sought after and valuable of the RPM or repunched mint marks, and in that order
Also there’s doubled dies that command a high premium and the most famous is the Doubled Monticello which is actually a DDR or doubled die reverse. You can see doubling on the letters from Monticello, the denomination letters and United States Of America.
Also there’s other doubled dies to collect, for examples, the 1943-P Doubled Eye, 1945 DDR. Plus one over date 1943-P 3 over 2, then you have the no mint mark proofs of 1971, very rare!
Jefferson Nickels have a 74 year history, and counting, so as you can see they’re a worthy collectible once you know what to buy and how to grade them. Some of the Jeffersons have a lot of room for upward movement in the future and now is the time to buy.
Related Link: Most Valuable Jefferson Nickels