Numismatic Coin Club World Internet Numismatic Society

The Thomas Jefferson Nickel Five Cent Piece
by Ray Larson, WINS#20

As common as dirt, pocket change reveals only more Lincoln Cents than this five-gram copper-nickel coin.  Most of us have only seen the Jefferson nickel design in circulation during our lives. Felix Schlag, who won the competition over 389 other artists contending for the $1000 prize, designed the coin.

There are now 140 regular issue pieces to the set, and they break down as 61 Philadelphia issues, 60 Denver issues, and 19 San Francisco issues. There are 54 regular issue proofs of which 31 are proof-only issues, or in other words, the only way you could get the 'S' minted coin. All of the proofs between 1938 and 1964, with the exception of the single year silver war issue, have no mintmark signifying a Philadelphia issue.In 1968, when proofs were minted again after three years of Special Mint Set only issues, the proofs had the 'S' mintmark on them, and in 1970, San Francisco minted the last mint state (not proof) 'S' nickel. The three years of 1965, 1966, and 1967, in which there were only Special Mint Sets produced, can often be found in a near proof-like condition. Actually the Mint struck two proofs in 1966 as presentation pieces. Also, in 1994 and 1997, there were Special Mint Set nickels created for the Jefferson Coin and Currency set and the Botanic garden set.

The composition of the coin from 1938-1942 and 1946 to the present is 75% copper and 25% nickel.  From 1942 to 1945, during World War II, it was 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese.  That equates to 0.05626 ounces of silver per coin, about 1/18th of an ounce.

There are many varieties of the coin of which nine are listed in Coin World Trends.  They are:

1939 Doubled Monticello
1942 D over horizontal D
1943 over 2
1943 P Doubled eye
1945 P doubled die
1946 D over horizontal D
1949 D over S
1954 S over D
1955 D over S

Most people starting to collect the set and using modern albums will have the regular issues of 140 coins and the proof-only issues of 31 coins to obtain.  This encompasses the years 1938 though 2000.  Currently, the least expensive way to obtain the set is to buy the whole set with album.  However, if you are really lucky or if you can buy the set put together by an old time collector, the odds are that most of the coins will fall in the MS 62 to 64 grades.  You can also put together a certified set in a certain grade but it is really hard to find some years that satisfy both the grade requirements and eye appeal.  Also if you go this route know that the price you pay for these coins will far surpass what you could resell them for at the present time anyway.  That said many people are going this route simply because they want the very best and history has shown in older series to be the best way to go.  According to the latest Coin World Trends, the regular issue set (no proofs) in MS65 would cost you $521.30 if you bought them individually.  This price seems both high and low.  High if you compare it to what you see the set usually selling for, and low if you consider what you must pay for true MS65 examples of the coins.

Finally, there are many ways to collect the series.  There are collectors who specialize in only well-struck examples that have full or nearly full steps on the Monticello mansion.  There are also collectors who go the error route and collect the series struck on wrong metal planchets.  In other words, you could probably collect only this one series of coins and still be kept busy searching for the next fifty years or so, depends on how fussy a collector you are, and what you have set as your goal.  The Jefferson Nickel, an easy hard fun exasperating set to collect.


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