The Jefferson Nickel coin is an American five-cent currency designed to honor the late president Thomas Jefferson. Its design was a tribute to the president, hence the name ‘Jefferson.’ The early minting of the Jefferson Nickel coins began in 1938 up to present. However, the Jefferson nickel changed in 2006 when the US Mint adopted artist Jamie Franki.
Depending on the condition, the mode Jefferson nickel value is about 25 cents. While their denominational face value is $0.05 and a metal weight of 5 grams, the nickels can go up to $40.
This article will help you understand the Jefferson Nickel series, their worth at numismatic markets, and how to grade before selling.
What is a Jefferson Nickel coin?
It is a five-cent coin struck for the first time in 1938 to replace the Buffalo Nickel coins. Designed by Felix Oscar Schlag, the five-cent Jefferson coin circulated across the country until 2004, when it had a new design.
Jefferson Nickel History
The Jefferson Nickel coin is one of the oldest coin series running in the history of America. Its production began on October 3, 1938, at three mints across the United States of America. Minting was so intense that 12 million Jefferson coins were already circulating in the country by November of the same year.
First, The US mint launched a public competition for a new design of the Jefferson coin in 1938. The proposed designs required a portrait of Jefferson on the obverse and his estate (Monticello) on the reverse. Out of 390 entries received, sculptor Felix Oscar emerged tops, bagging a whopping $1,000 prize for the design.
Shortly after production, the Jefferson Nickel cent was scarce due to massive hoarding. Hoarding occurred because Nickel was an essential part of the Second World War in which the nation was a key player. However, in 1940, Jefferson’s five-cent coins began massive circulation.
In 1942, the US Congress authorized a reduced use of Nickel to manufacture the Jefferson five cents. It aimed at having an alloy that used little or no Nickel yet still satisfied counterfeit detection techniques at all vending machines. So, mints used an alloy consisting of 56% copper, 9% Manganese, and 35% silver to produce the coins.
Jefferson coins struck during this period were therefore referred to as “war nickels” because they had a lower Nickel content occasioned by the Second World War. During the same year, the mint mark “P” (Philadelphia) appeared for the first time on Jefferson coins, although not for long.
The coins retained their original design until 2005 when innovations came into place. To date, the production of Jefferson Nickel coins continues, with new designs expected after retired President Donald Trump signed the Collectible Redesign Act of 2020.
Which US Mint Produced the Jefferson Nickel Coin?
Production of the Jefferson coins occurred in three different mints, namely Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. The mints produced about 30,000,000 specimens in 1938.
In 1954, San Francisco mint stopped its production until 1968, when production resumed towards proof coins.
Since 1970, all Jefferson Nickel coins production has been at Philadelphia and Denver, with Philadelphia producing the largest share.
Reason for minting
The US mint introduced the Jefferson coin out of necessity, inspired by two main reasons.
First, the main idea behind the coin’s production was to honor America’s founding father and third president, Thomas Jefferson.
Secondly, the US mint was not satisfied by the design of the coin’s predecessor, Buffalo Nickel. For a long time, the Buffalo Nickel proved hard to coin because of the dominant Nickel content. Unlike Copper and Silver, Nickel was harder, hence required a higher-pressure level to strike.
Despite several adjustments to its dies, getting a complete strike was still hard. So, the mint decided to replace it as soon as possible.
Features of Jefferson Nickel coin
The Jefferson coin is an iconic currency, featuring numerous features apart from other coin series.
Below are some of the noticeable features on both obverse and reverse sides:
The portrait is a profile bust of the late president Thomas Jefferson.
Obverse (Head) Features
The original design features the image of Jefferson facing left. In front of the president’s portrait is an inscription “IN GOD WE TRUST” written in block letters along the left rim.
Another description, “LIBERTY,” appears in block letters along the right edge behind the portrait. The year of mintage also appears on the obverse face after the inscription “LIBERTY.”
Reverse (Tail) Features
The reverse of the original design features a front elevation of the president’s famous home at the coin’s center. Below the house is an inscription “MONTICELLO” in block letters and straight-line text.
The coin’s denominational value is slightly below the home written as “FIVE CENTS” in a curved format.
The motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” appears along the upper rim and another inscription “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” along with the coin’s lower trim.
In 2006, the US mint introduced a new design on the coin’s obverse side. Designed by Jamie Franki, the new design depicts President Jefferson facing forward. In addition, the word “Liberty” appears at the lower right corner in calligraphy, and the date of mintage is slightly below.
Unlike the first design, the new Jefferson coin features an inscription “IN GOD WE TRUST” along the right margin instead of the left.
You’d be surprised to find that not all Jefferson Nickel coins bear a mintmark. All coins struck from 1938-1964 had a mintmark on the reverse side. The mintmark appeared on the lower, right-hand side of the president’s Monticello.
Incredibly, all Jefferson coins struck between 1965 and 1967 had no mintmark from all the mints. Additionally, no Jefferson coins produced by the Philadelphia mint after 1942 have a mintmark.
In 1968, the mints reintroduced the mintmarks on the obverse face of the coin. This time, the mintmarks appeared at the right-hand corner, below the president’s portrait.
Currently, mintmarks still appear on the obverse side, below the date of mintage.
Common mintmarks include “P” (Philadelphia, 1942), “S” (San Francisco), and “D” (Denver).
Like other coins previously produced by the US Mint, the Jefferson Nickel has several slogans on both faces.
- E PLURIBUS UNUM
- IN GOD, WE TRUST
The Jefferson Nickel coin is a robust piece of metal consisting of 75% copper and 25% nickel. However, wartime Jefferson nickels produced between 1942 and 1945 consist of 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese.
Weight and Dimensions
The Jefferson nickel weighs 5 grams and has a diameter of 21.21 mm
Value of the Jefferson Nickel
The Jefferson coin has value as both a collectible and a numismatic coin.
Denominational Value of the Coin
The coin is worth 5 cents ($0.05) at face value. The denominational value appears on the reverse of the coin.
The new series for the Jefferson coins designed in 2006 contains 75% copper and 25% nickel. At current rates, the copper in the coin has a melt value of $0.0339, while Nickel has a melt value of $0.0228.
Therefore, the currency has a total melt value of $0.05677434. The older series, however, have a melt value of $1.2774.
How Much Is the Jefferson Nickel Coin at the Pawnshop?
A Jefferson Nickel has a higher numismatic value than the melt value, even at low grades. The coin is worth $1-$2 in good condition at a pawnshop and up to $5 in uncirculated condition. A complete step MS-67 Jefferson Nickel coin can fetch as much as $1,057.
The Standard Value of the Jefferson Nickel coin
Some old series Jefferson five cents have premium value, depending on their condition. A good combination of the state, mintmark, and date rarity can fetch 25 cents or more.
Comparison Table Showing the Value of Jefferson Nickel coin
|Date||Good ($)||Fine ($)||Extremely Fine ($)||Mint State ($)|
Factors that Influence the Value of Jefferson Nickel coin
Collectors look at a Jefferson Nickel’s condition and then assign a sensible grade. The video below shows the process of grading a Jefferson Nickel.
And, here are the main factors that may determine the value of your Jefferson five-cent:
Year of Mintage
The year for mintage plays a critical role in the coin’s value as it determines the number of coins in circulation for that year. Low mintage means a low number of coins in circulation, hence premium value for a specific Jefferson nickel coin.
For instance, the early years between 1938 and 1964 characterized a low mintage of only 230,000,000 coins.
The mintmark shows the location of the mintage as well as the value of the coin. In 1938, San Francisco had the lowest mintage; hence, coins bearing the mark “S” have a higher value than their counterparts do in the same year.
In 1960, Denver produced the highest number compared to San Francisco and Philadelphia. As a result, coins bearing the mintmark “D” have the lowest value for 1960.
Depending on grade, a Jefferson nickel coin in its preserved, original state is more valuable to a coin collector than a worn-out state.
Jefferson coins have five main grading criteria, namely;
In mint state, there’s no wear on both the obverse and reverse faces of the coin. Jefferson’s image’s cheek, eyebrows, and hair waves on Jefferson’s head retain their texture and original luster.
In addition, the columns on Monticello appear rounded; the triangles on the rooflines are not flat, while the windows are distinct.
There’s slight wear on portions of the hair waves in this condition with only small flat areas. There’s also slight wear on the president’s eyebrows and cheeks. On the reverse face, the triangular arch is faint but visible.
In fine grade, a Jefferson nickel coin has heavy wear on its central regions, forming a vast flat zone. Only a few traces of hair waves remain on the back and near the collar of the president’s portrait. The cheeks and eyebrows are balanced, the shoulder is flat, and no line separates the lined collar from the coat.
The lowest level of grading is characterized by visible and extreme wear on both sides. The hairlines connect to the forehead, eyes, brows, and cheeks are flat, and the rims merge with the letters along the edge. On the reverse side, the dome is flat, and the coin’s face value appears faint compared to other writings.
Error coins are among the most valued and rarest Jefferson nickel coins.
The most common error coins include:
- Double die coins such as 1939 Doubled Monticello and the 1945-P Double die reverse coin
- Repunched mint mark coins containing double images such as 1942-D over horizontal D
A complete step Jefferson coin has undamaged steps on the president’s Monticello. A complete step coin has a value of 10 or 20 times more than the standard value.
1. How Do I Tell If My Jefferson Coin Has Full Steps?
A Jefferson nickel has six steps that form a full ladder on the Monticello. To determine if they are complete, count the number of steps beginning from the entrance. Any damage to the steps disqualifies the coin from having complete steps.
2. How Do I Know If My Jefferson Nickel is Worth Some Cash?
The more valuable Jefferson coins worth money are the wartime series struck between 1942 and 1945. They have a mintmark on the reverse side, near the president’s Monticello. If you notice a mintmark P, S, or D above the Monticello’s dome, it’s a silver coin worth more than its face value.
3. When Was the Jefferson Coin Last Punched by the Hand?
The last time the Jefferson Nickel coin had a hand-punched mintmark was in 1989. Only about 20,000 hand-punched specimens exist.
Winding Up: Is the Jefferson Nickel Value Worth it?
The Jefferson coin is a transition currency that brought relief from the hard minting of the Buffalo series. With an expected value of 25 cents and a melt value higher than its face value, the coin is undoubtedly a good collectible worth some cash.
However, the key to a higher value is the coin’s grade, rarity, whole steps, and mistruck errors.
If you have any questions regarding your Jefferson Nickel value, do not hesitate to contact us.