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Jefferson Nickels 1938+ Mint State, U.S. .05 cent coins


Wandering Trainwreck
V.I.P Member
I collect Jefferson Nickels Minted from 1938-2003, with a primary focus on 1938-1955. I also am now focusing on errors, re-punched mint marks, special specimens and special finishes.

The design was basically the same from 1938-2003. The only differences were the placement of the mint marks.
In 2004 two new designs were issued and again in 2005. With the new 2006 issue a new design was established for the $0.05 coin

The standard composition of the U.S. Nickel in this series 1938-1942, 1946-present is 75% copper 25% Nickel.


From 1938-1942 the mint mark was located to the right base of Monticello. Nickels were produced in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (no mark at all)
Denver, Colorado (D)
And San Fransisco, California (S)

During world war 2 the mint changed the composition of the nickel to 56% copper, 35% SILVER, 9% manganese.
The raw nickel material was needed for the war effort so a silver nickel was created!
A special feature of this transition in 1942 saw a one of a kind production; the first silver nickel and only year with a silver proof nickel! There were regular 1942 nickels minted in Philadelphia and also Proof specimens, There was also a 1942-D (Denver Colorado mint) nickel of the normal composite. A Proof is a special issue that is highly polished before the coin image is stamped into the coin. It looks like a mirror finish.

When the composition was changed in mid 1942, all silver nickels had their mint mark moved to the reverse of the coin above Monticello.
A new silver nickel was made in Philadelphia along with the only ever silver Proof finish nickel. Proof specimens were not made again until 1950.
My collection includes all specimen examples; Business strike (for circulation), Proof (special issue), Matte finish when available, Mint Set issues (come sealed not intended for normal use/circulation), and Special Mint Set issues.

There are essentially 8 types of Jefferson nickels. I say that based on major or obvious die changes. This is my unofficial list

1938-42, 46-64 nickel/copper with reverse mint mark, except Philadelphia

42-45 silver/copper/manganese. Reverse mint mark moved above Monticello

1968-2003 nickel/copper with mint mark on obverse (front of coin) in 1980 Philadelphia began using a P mint mark.

2004 westward journey pictured above with new reverse Louisiana purchase

2004 westward journey pictured about with new reverse keel boat

2005 westward journey pictured above with new "ocean in view" reverse, new obverse

2005 westward journey pictured above with new reverse buffalo/bison nickel design, same new obverse as other 2005 issue

2006-present "return to Monticello" with new obverse off center portrait image and the 1938 reverse design but with flat stronger crisp details. This is my least favorite of all nickels ever with flat surfaces and normal circulation wear makes Thomas look like a zombie. I call them the "zombie nickels"

More to come
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After a few months completing my first set of normal circulated nickels from 1938-1964, I expanded to include from 1965-2003. I found 95% of these simply searching through hundreds of rolls of coins from banks on the weekends. I had to buy a few silvers I could not find. And also the Key Date low mintage rare coins too like the 1939-d, 1950-d, etc.

By this time my obsession had evolved into the start of a new set of uncirculated Mint condition finest available examples from 1938-2006. And I decided, hey why not include Proof specimens?
After about 14 months and enough money to buy a used car I had completed my first set of brilliant uncirculated (BU) nickels, all mints and with Proofs.
Then as any other Aspie knows, the Special interest went deeper. I had to upgrade any coin with the slightest imperfection.
After I upgraded the quality of about 150+ coins I decided to assemble another set of BU specimens, and then ended up with 3 full sets, the mania with nickels had peaked! This was in 2012-13.
No more redundant sets I decided at this point. But there was a twist! There always is, and mine was the collection books.
You see, Dansco is a major coin book company, they make these nice books with removable pages and plastic slide windows for viewing.
They have a hole to fill for each issue of nickel. The more popular varieties even have spaces for additional variety examples (like two different mint mark sizes on the 1979 proof, a small fat "S" and a clear clean "S". Type 1 & 2.)

Well these books do not include the insanely expensive rare varieties, and early proof specimens. Proofs start in 1971 officially in the Dansco book.
Enter my new dilemma!
There were proof coins made off and on from 1938-1970. There is no Empty place for these in the books!! Probably because they are cost prohibitive.

Well I have now gathered every proof in best possible/ affordable condition 1938-42, 1950-64, 1968-70. This is in my original Dansco book for BU coins, so I have removed the early business strikes and replaced them with Proof examples.
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I toured the San Francisco mint before it closed. It was very exciting. They would press a coin for you if you bought a blank. I bought two so they could press one and I could keep the blank. The gold vault down below was amazing. There were marks in the steel walls from the stacks of coins that had been piled high more than one hundred years ago.

Thank you for showing your collection. I wish I could sit with you and go through each one. At the mint I saw my first uncirculated coin. I did not know about them.
Very nice collection. I collect coins as well but, only 1 ounce pure silver, legal tender coins form around the world and, gold US Eagles, Canadian maple leafs and Austrian Philharmonics coins.

I've got some copper Buffalo Nickel replicas, just for decorative use because I do love the Buffalo Nickle design.
My latest addition to my collection is a very rare satin finish 1994 P. I have waited many years to purchase this as it commands a high premium (cost over face value) There were only 167,703 ever made with this unique surface. It was only sold incased with the Thomas Jefferson coinage and currency set in 1994. The set includes an uncirculated 1976 $2 bill printed in Philadelphia, a 1993 Thomas Jefferson silver dollar and a special 1994 matte proof style satin finish nickel.


This is my near perfect example, excellent strike and details, 6 full steps on Monticello, with a slight natural toning on the reverse from the 7 to 2 (clockwise position)

The only other special edition like this came out in 1997, and that coin is still on my wish list.
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Regarding variety coins;
A variety occurs when a die is different or not uniform with other dies. Many dies are used in a single year, and when one or a few are slightly different it creates a variety, usually only visible on close inspection. Varieties or errors as pictured below represent a small percentage of the millions made each year. A few hundred or less and up to a few thousand, counted against millions makes them a special rarity.

Here are a few circulated one of a kind die variety examples of the 1954 S over D error variety. In 54 there were extra reverse die hubs in Denver and a shortage in San Fransisco. So the Denver mint sent SF their extras, who promptly stamped an S over the D, quite obviously. This only occurred with a limited quantity of coins made.


Then the reverse situation happened in 1955 with an D over S error variety. Denver had to ask for their extra reverse die hubs back, and returning the favor, SF stamped an S on them before shipping, and Denver punched a D over the S. Only a few dies have this characteristic.
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Information/History dump;
1938- Felix Schalag won a design competition for the Jefferson nickel, first coins made this year. This was also the final year of the Buffalo nickel.

1940- the reverse (back) of the coin had its details strengthened and the steps of Monticello were sharpened and the previous "Wavy" appearance was corrected. There are two varieties the reverse of the 1938 and the reverse of the 1940. Both reverses were used at all three mints.

1942- due to WW2 the metal nickel was replaced with silver and manganese part way through the year, the first year of both nickel/copper T1 and only ever silver proof nickels T2 were made this year. Regular composition T1/ Type 1 strikes were made in Philadelphia and Denver, silver strikes T2/ Type 2 were made in Philadelphia and San Fransisco.

1946- regular nickel/ copper composition re-introduced

1950- in Denver there were only 2,630,030 nickels made, creating the lowest mintage ever for business strike coins. This sensationalized nickels and coin collecting as values skyrocketed.
Proof production resumed in Philadelphia.

1964- last year of Proof mintings in Philadelphia. Last year of reverse mint mark location.

1965-1967- as a "punishment" for coin collectors, no mint marks were added to any coins produced in these three years. In addition, proof production was halted.

1966- the initials FS were added to the obverse of the coin directly below the bust or shoulder of Jefferson's image for all future issues.


1968- the mint mark was moved FROM the reverse on the right side at the base of Monticello, and TO obverse (front) just below the year. Proof coins were now being manufactured in San Fransisco.

1980- From here forward the Philadelphia mint began using a P on their coins for the first time ever for regular production nickels. (The P was previously only used on silver WW2 nickels 1942-1945)

1982-1983- no standard sealed mint sets were offered for sale to the public making nickels of these years (and other coins) a rarity in Uncirculated mint condition. Examples without any marks or scratches/ contact marks are very rare and valuable.

1994- a special mint set was created to commemorate Thomas Jefferson and his decimal money system. This set included a silver dollar of Jefferson dated 1993, a 1976 bicentennial $2 note/bill, and a special satin finish 1994-p nickel. It was secretly sandblasted to match the look of the silver dollar, then pressed or minted using proof die hubs (I believe) with a Philadelphia P mint mark. There were less than 168,000 ever made and these special examples were only available with this sealed set.

1997- the Botanic Gardens silver dollar set also included a special satin or matte finish proof style 1997-P nickel, of which only 25,000 were ever made. The rarest production nickel I know of ever.

2003- the final year of the standard design of the Jefferson nickel.

2004- the original obverse (front image) was used, however, two new reverses were issued at each mint to commemorate the Westward Journey


2005- a new obverse image was used. A right facing portrait image, also two different reverse images.


Sources: visual inspection of coins, mint numbers taken from United States Mint information and statements.
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This is my favorite book, it is also autographed by the author. It is very comprehensive up to year 2000, informative and indepth.

This is a standard coin guide with information on all general and major die varieties of US coins and sets, and written grading information.

This newest book is pretty awesome too, however, it only has a few pages at the end dedicated to Jefferson Nickels. All the major errors are covered, and the primary die varieties. There are many more not covered by this book

There is a whole new world of specialty varieties I have not researched or knowingly aquired yet, so I am optimistic that I can indulge in my interest for years to come. :D
Errors: post under construction
Errors are a fascinating aspect of the numismatic hobby, in my opinion.

I will explain and edit in more information as I seek permission to use photos by others, and as I photograph my own examples.
Credit accompanies each photo and is listed above the photo.

Off center coins are struck/ created when the planchet, or unpressed coin blank, is not properly centered in the collar between the dies. A die is the stamp which presses the image into a coin. Values vary depending on condition, image, number of strikes/pressings, presence of year or mint mark, etc.
In the example below, Mr Leary presented a 1983-P Jefferson nickel for auction on eBay. I didn't win or bid on this but wish I had.
Coins like this slip out of the mint in large bags or rolls (when not quite so far off center).
As more high tech gadgets are used at the mint, the accidental release of errors has been reduced in recent years. (This information is to the best of my knowledge, without citation)

Michael Leary, eBay ID mj6918

Next addressed are
Wrong planchet coins are those minted on the incorrect planchet/blank. They are exceptionally rare and are a result of coins caught on machinery lines or perhaps midnight mischief at the pressing stations. :D
This next coin below is a nickel coined on a penny/one cent planchet, which is too small for a nickel size. This example is noted at 3.1 grams. This means it is a 90% copper coin. Midway through 1982 the mint changed the penny/ one cent coin composition from 90% copper to only 5% copper (surface plating)

Photos courtesy of Jon at Sullivan Numismatics, eBay ID sullivannumismatics


multiple strike coins are those that are struck more than once. They do not entirely leave the striking surfaces of the dies after the first initial stamping. They sometimes look like a coin designed by Salvador Dali (they were not) Price Value increases with subsequent additional strikes. The coin below is a nice example of a multiple strike, one additional after the initial strike, with details showing on the second strike.

Photos courtesy of an anonymous eBay member

To be continued...
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Another type of error is the
Broad Strike / Broad Struck
This unique error occurs during the minting or pressing of the coin. A "collar" or type of ring is supposed to be around the edge of the blank coin/planchet when the image is being pressed in. When the collar is absent during the point, the metal is allowed to spread out and the coin becomes wider and thinner. Here is the newest error added to my collection. This is a nice uncirculated example of a 1999-P Broad strike error, and another coin is shown for comparison.
What is your interest in misshapen coins? I am thinking it is the rarity of the coins that have these errors. Aesthetically they seem displeasing. I like things that are right and these coins are about mistakes. I want to you enjoy them but would you tell me more about why you or other people like them?

If I think about it, when I see a coin like this I imagine myself in the busy mint. All the machines going. But with all the repetition there is this rarity, a mistake, that happens and that makes it unique and maybe like a little secret - at the time nobody knows it is happening. All the other coins go into circulation but maybe these types of coins live longer because they are protected in a collection. I am trying to understand.
It is much like you said, in that it is a rarity. With yearly numbers in multi-millions, these curious mistakes are numerically rare and amazing.
The mint usually catches and destroys any errors or mistakes, so for one or a few to slip out undetected is a fluke. Especially as modern technology is employed to eliminate errors.

The fact that they are like the little rebels of the coin word, refusing conformity, openly unique and different, yet cut from the same mold... Perhaps I romanticize them in a way, with anthropomorphic style and identify with them.

I collect and appreciate errors and varieties for their unique attributes, as a side interest, but my general focus is on finding the most perfect specimens of any given year or mint origin.
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"...famous con artist Josh Tatum supposedly would walk into a store and
select a 5-cent item, such as a 5-cent cigar, and tender a 24-karat gold-plated nickel.
If the storekeeper noticed it was a nickel, Tatum would simply leave with his purchase.
Most of the time, however, he would leave with his purchase and $4.95 in change.

When Tatum was eventually apprehended and his case went to trial, the defense attorney
asked each storekeeper if Tatum, who could neither speak nor hear, had asked for change back.
Every storekeeper testified 'no.' Because it was not illegal to gold-plate coins in the 1880s and
Tatum did not specifically ask for change back, he was found not guilty.

Josh Tatum is often credited with inspiring the term 'I was just joshing.'
In 1884, this type of counterfeiting stopped when the Mint began to
engrave the words Five Cents on the obverse of the nickel."

For the last 11 months or so, I have been building an all inclusive set of all known issues and published varieties of the Jefferson nickel. I have gradually climbed in to 5th place for the current list of competitors for the worlds finest complete set. I have some rare and exciting pictures to share soon. There are photos on the registry list of some of my coins and also pics of rare details close up.
Thanks for looking.

Link to set here PCGS Set Registry - Aspie-Rocco Variety Dream Set
Some additional web links for varieties of all denominations
Variety Vista Home

Pcgs is the leading third party grading company and has a plethora of information about coins

And some new books I've collected on nickels Pictured below
The book by Richard Bosquet is particularly informative and awesome. Jefferson nickel Die varieties and minting errors
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