Coin Information


Name of coin
Year(s) Issued
Felix Schlag
Countries Issued in
United States
Face Value
75% Copper, 25% Nickel
Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco Mint

History of the Jefferson Nickel Edit

The Jefferson Nickel was first minted in 1938 after the new designed was picked from a Mint contest. The designer of both the obverse and reverse was Felix Schlag. His initial design remained almost unchanged until 2004. It incorporates a portrait of Thomas Jefferson on the obverse facing to the left. On the reverse is Jefferson's home in Virginia: Monticello. The design change in 2004 was a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase and Louis and Clark's expedition into it. There are two different reverses for this year: one featuring a reproduction of the Indian Peace Medal awarded to Louis and Clark, and a second depicting the boat they used. In 2005 another two reverses were chosen, the first featuring a buffalo similar to what was on the previous type of nickel, the buffalo nickel, and the second featuring a few of the Pacific Ocean with Clark's original diary entry. During 2004 the obverse was the same Schlag design, however, the 2005 featured a new profile of Jefferson facing right. These four coins are known collectively as the Westward Journey series. In 2006, Monticello once again returned to the reverse of the coin, but the obverse was changed again. It now features a portrait of Jefferson facing forward. With the new portraits in 2005 and 2006 came an additional change to the obverse. Instead of having the traditional block LIBERTY inscription, it was changed to a cursive inscription taken from one of Thomas Jefferson's writings.

Metal Content Edit

The metal content of the Jefferson Nickel has stayed almost as constant as its design, containing 75% copper and 25% nickel. In fact, that composition has not changed since the nickel was introduced in 1866. However, during the years of World War II (1942-1945) the content was changed to free up the nickel for war time production. The new composition for these years was 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese.

Mint Markings Edit

From 1938 to 1964 the mint mark for the Jefferson Nickel appeared off the lower right corner of Monticello on the reverse with a couple of exceptions. While D and S were displayed, the coins minted at the Philadelphia mint had no mint marking. In addition, while the nickels were being minted on silver (1942-1945), the mint marks, including P mint marks, appear above Monticello on the reverse and are very large. From 1965 to 1967, there were no mint marks on nickels at all. They reappeared in 1968, this time in its current location on the obverse just below the date. In 1980, the P mint mark also began to appear on the nickels, along with many other U.S. coins.

Collecting Jefferson Nickels Edit

Jefferson Nickels are one of the easier U.S. coin varieties to collect. This is because they have often times been ignored by collectors. They are readily available in rolls from banks to search through, and these rolls will still contain nickels from across the span of its history, including the 1938 and 39 nickels that start the series and the 1942-1945 silver war nickels. Because of this, completing a basic collection could be as simple as going through the coins from your bank. In addition, because of the lack of interest in the coins, even fairly high grades of older coins can be obtained relatively cheap.

Key Dates Edit

The rarest dates for the Jefferson Nickel are 1938-D and -S, 1939-D and -S, and 1950-D. 1938 and 39 coins can still be found in circulation as well as the 1950-D. The 1950-D is also not hard to obtain in mint state conditions because the collecting community had been informed that this run would be small, and many were bought up and held on to. The 1994-P Matte Proof nickel had 67,703 minted. The 1997-P Matte only had 25,000 minted.

"Full Steps" Edit

One of the main ways that a Jefferson Nickel is graded is by looking at the steps in front of Monticello. Even on examples fresh from the mint, the steps are not always struck clearly. Because of this, a nickel on which you can see all of the five to six steps is called a "full steps" and commands a premium, even on common varieties. Many early dates often are very expensive in FS.

Design Nicknames Edit

  • 1792-1872: Half Dime
  • 1866-1883: Shield Nickel
  • 1883-1913: Liberty Head "V" Nickel
  • 1913-1938: Buffalo Nickel
  • 1938-2004: Jefferson Monticello Nickel
  • 2004-2005: New Jefferson Nickel
  • 2006-present: New Jefferson Monticello Nickel
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