Affordable American Coins – Over 75 Years of Jefferson Nickels


Through Al Doyle for CoinWeek ……

Familiar objects are often underestimated and Nickel Jefferson tend to receive the Rodney Dangerfield treatment of collectors. The play has been so consistent in everyday life that even on its 75th birthday in 2013, it was an ‘under the radar’ event. Why collect five-cent coins when older or flashier series are among the other numismatic options?

Many coin enthusiasts cannot spend large sums on their favorite hobby, and this has been especially true in the not-so-distant economic climate. A limited budget is no reason to give up numismatics altogether, but it does make collecting a challenge. Cash strapped collectors have to get creative to find decent pieces that they really like and can afford. Full sets of dates and mint marks aren’t normally a practical option due to the high-priced key dates, but Jeffersons is the happy exception to the general rule.

felix_schlagDesigned by a German immigrant Felix Schlag (who won $ 1,000 for his works in a national competition) Year One is a prime example of the affordability of this series. The 1938, 1938-D and 1938-S all sell for $ 10 or less in the MS-60 through MS-63 range, and the branch mint coins sport modest mintage of 5,376,000 (Denver) and 4,105,000 (San Francisco).

Here’s the bad news – sort of. The 1939-D (circulation 3,514,000) and 1939-S (6,630,000) are two of the four most expensive Jeffersons, but “expensive” is a relative term. The most common Reverse of 1940 The ’39 -D version is a safe buy in MS-63, and either reverse for the ’39 -S carries a similar value in this category. Collectors who opt for variety and the ultimate in completeness may want to add the Reverse of 1938 5-cent coins to their sets.

The other ‘big-ticket’ items in the series are 1942-D copper-nickel and the 1950-D. A nice example (as in MS-63 through MS-65) of the ’42 -D is easily obtainable for under $ 75, which is caviar money in the cheap world of Jefferson’s nickels.

Even though it has an eye-catching mintage of 2,630,000, the ’50 -D is not uncommon as few of them have entered circulation. This is the poster for the frenzied BU roll boom and bust of 1963 and 1964. The rolls of forty coins passed the $ 1,000 mark (roughly $ 7,000 adjusted for inflation) before plunging to the bottom. less than $ 200 per roll in 1990.

jeff_nickels_bassThe 11th”war nickels”From 1942 to 1945 did not contain a grain of nickel. This is because the metal was essential for military use, and these coins contain an alloy of 35 percent silver, 56 percent copper, and nine percent manganese. A large mintmark was placed on the reverse to distinguish temporary coins from standard copper-nickel coins, and this was the first time that a Philadelphia coin had a P.

War nickels are the only silver coin that still makes an occasional appearance in circulation. The manganese in the alloy promotes discoloration which, along with the great mint mark, makes them stand out in the pocket change. Likewise, Jeffersons dated from 1938 to 1941 can still be found sometimes. War nickels are a popular short set, and they are more often colored than other Jeffersons.

The person who is limited to modest cash spending can easily work the set a few coins at a time, as uncirculated singles typically sell for well under $ 10. It would be hard to find a more economical way to collect coins without stress than to specialize in this series of blue collar workers.

Even the pre-1955 proofs (1938-42 and 1950-54) are quite affordable. Assembling a full set of Jeffersonian proofs is another moderately priced option. Errors and Varieties are attention-grabbing additions to a collection.

jeff_5c_board_thumbThere is a way to make the series a bigger budget proposition. Monticello on the reverse, six complete and uninterrupted marches on coins with a strong strike. This detail can be rare or even nonexistent for dates which tend to be weakly minted, and the price of “full step” nickels can reach four figures for keys in this specialized field.

Dates to watch include 1952, 1953, 1954-D, 1954-S (even coins from the original BU rolls may appear to be circulating), 1955, 1955-D, 1956-D, 1958, 1960 and 1961-D. It goes without saying that any full nickel that costs a hefty price must be certified by a reputable grading service. It’s a slim market for sure.

The 1964 and 1964-D Jeffersons are some of the most common circulating coins in U.S. history, but fully minted specimens are pretty elusive. The 1965 and 1966 are among the rarest complete dates, and the 1968-S and 1970-S can be a big challenge to locate. Want to start a riot? Find a high end 1970-D with full steps and do it slab. They might not be at the top of the list, but the 1976, 1977, nineteen eighty one and 1983 will not be found quickly if full steps are required.

The matte-finished Jeffersons were hit in Philadelphia in 1994 and 1997, and these small circulation numbers (167,703 and 25,000 respectively) are very different from modern snow-capped frosty proofs. New designs since 2004 offer variety to accompany a long history.

Is it Really Possible to End a 75 Year Date on a Meager Budget? If the series in question is Jefferson’s Nickel, the answer is “absolutely”.

Jefferson Nickels currently available on eBay


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