Collect Something Simple – Jefferson Nickels 6

If you’re an investor, Jefferson Nickels are not for you, unless you’re collecting errors. Jefferson Nickels are definitely a collectors set.  You find them in change or bank rolls. You could even do a complete MS-65 (Gem Uncirculated) collection within reason. In fact, the only coin that you may pay $100 for at MS-65 is the 1939-D. And now, an intro to the Jefferson Nickel.

Brief History

In 1938, the Buffalo Nickel had been minted for 25 years and the mint was ready for a change. Parts of the Buffalo Nickel would wear down quickly in circulation, especially the date and mint mark. Most of the Buffalo Nickels I see in change have no dates.

In January, the mint began a contest for someone to provide a new design for the nickel and as an added incentive, they offered $1,000 for the best design. The judges suggested it should be of Thomas Jefferson as it was the bicentennial of his birth, though his birth was actually 1743. The deadline to submit a design was April 15th,  and after viewing almost 400 entries, they decided on the design by Felix Schlag who had Jefferson’s profile on the obverse and him home, Monticello, on the reverse. Jefferson’s face would be changed in 2005 for the Westward Expansion Set that year and then a permanent change in 2006.

Key Dates1950DNickel

There are two key dates for the Jefferson Nickel. The 1939-D had only 3.5 million minted making it a rarity for the Jefferson Nickel, especially in higher grades. In contrast was the 1950-D which was only released in Mint Sets. Though less 1950-D nickels were minted at 2.6 million, the 1939-D is worth more in Uncirculated condition. After all, all of the 1950-D nickels were in uncirculated condition, but the 1939-D nickel was not.




Wartime Nickels1942PNickel

When the United States entered World War II, there was a big demand for nickel. 1942 started with the normal nickel/copper/manganese composition, but by October, the nickel was replaced with 35% silver. Surprising they had 56% copper which you would have thought they would try to replace that too.

Not only was 1942 the first time there was silver on a nickel, it would be the first time a ‘P’ mintmark would appear on a coin to represent the Philadelphia mint. Silver would remain in Jefferson Nickels until World War II ended in 1945. By 1946, nickel was put back in the nickel and the ‘P’ mintmark would disappear until the Susan B Anthony Dollar in 1979.

Westward Expansion2004-2005-nickels

In 1803, President Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Purchase from French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte expanding the United States beyond the Mississippi River. The next year, he would commission an expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to map the new territory and find a route across the west. From 1804 to 1806, Lewis and Clark ventured west from near St. Louis, MO to the Oregon Coast.

The US Mint would honor the Westward Expansion in 2004 and 2005 with 4 different reverses and a different design of Jefferson in 2005.

So, what do you think?

Like I said, it’s not for investors, but easy to collect. Would you consider collecting Jefferson Nickels?

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6 thoughts on “Collect Something Simple – Jefferson Nickels

  • Wing

    Cool article! I’m usually on the lookout for old coins that pre-dates the 50’s. Usually only find pennies that are that old but this Jefferson Nickel is pretty cool, never heard of it actually. Is there data on approximately how many of the original may be left in circulation? The old ones would sure be a cool collector’s item.

    • Kevin Post author

      There are definitely a lot of Jefferson Nickels out there. In fact, in 1964, there were over 2.8 billion nickels minted between the Philadelphia and Denver mints. In terms of the pre-1950 Jefferson Nickels, they are getting more difficult to find in change due to the fact that there have been billions of nickels minted since 2010. Makes it tougher to find the older ones but I do see them on occasion, even the silver ones. Keep checking your pockets.

  • Michel

    I am not a coin collector but love the history of the coins. The wartime nickels reminded me of my grandfather who used to collect these coins.

    He had loads of war stories to tell us.
    Interesting that the first silver on the nickel only happened in 1942. But I wonder why, because I am sure everyone was a lot poorer during the war.

    • Kevin Post author

      The nickel was never meant to contain silver like the dime, quarter or half dollar did back in the 40’s, but in 1942, the US was fighting the Germans and Japanese in World War II. Nickel and copper were needed for the war effort. So, to replace the nickel content in the Jefferson Nickel, the mint used silver from 1942 – 1945. Also, in 1943, they replaced the copper in Lincoln Cents with steel.

  • Farhan

    Collecting money from all over the world just seems very interesting to me, and I occasionally keep some foreign currencies myself. Though, I have never thought of being a nickel collector.

    I guess there is really no value in collecting these nickels, unless you are some kind of patriot or just love collecting historical items. Is it possible for someone outside the U.S to buy the wartime nickels?

    Great article!

    • Kevin Post author

      There’s not much value, but I still enjoyed collecting Jefferson Nickels. You can buy Wartime Nickels on Ebay. I have links to Jefferson Nickels on my post.