It’s hard to remember a time when the Jefferson Nickel series has not been considered a “sleeper.” Maybe there was a little exuberance around this generations-old motif when the Westward Journey Nickels of 2004 and 2005 were released, causing a flurry of collector excitement amid the fervor over the then-ongoing 50 State Quarters program. But, otherwise, it seems the number of people who consider themselves diehard enthusiasts of the nickel series that launched in 1938 is relatively small as compared to the legions of numismatists who dedicate lifetimes to collecting Lincoln Cents, Morgan Dollars, or Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles.
But the Jefferson Nickel series has many things going for it, and that’s what we’re going to look at here in brief. What are five good reasons to begin a collection of Jefferson Nickels? Let’s consider the following:
#1 – Jefferson Nickels Are Affordable
Collectors who are intimidated by high-priced rarities need not quiver in financial fear over the prospect of collecting Jefferson Nickels! The series has its expensive coins – consider varieties like the 1939 Doubled MONTICELLO, 1954-S Over D circulation strike, and 1971 No-S Proof. But you need not withhold contributions to your kid’s 529 college savings plan to build a respectable set of Jefferson Nickels. Many examples of even the scarce dates can be had in Gem Uncirculated grades for less than $50.
#2 – The Key Dates Are Obtainable
The Jefferson Nickel has two major key dates – the 1939-D and 1950-D; both issues represent the lowest-mintage issues among the circulation output, with mintages of 3,514,000 for the 1939-D and 2,630,030 for the 1950-D. However, neither of these key dates are extremely costly. In circulated condition they can be obtained for less than $20 apiece. Meanwhile, the 1939-D fetches $75 in MS65 and the 1950-D takes $26 in the same grade.
#3 – There’s Silver in Them Thar Nickels
Ever hear of Wartime Nickels? It’s a colloquial saying because the five-cent United States coins to which this term refers don’t contain any nickel at all. Rather, the Jefferson five-cent coins struck from late 1942 on through 1945 are made from a special alloy consisting of 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese. This composition was implemented in October 1942 to help save nickel for making military artillery during the heart of World War II. These regular-issue “War Nickels” aren’t rare at all but they do contain silver, making them a novelty collectible for non-numismatists and an inexpensive item for silver stackers on a budget. Jefferson Nickel enthusiasts also love them, often pursuing for building standalone short sets or including them among their larger series collections.
#4 – Full Steps Add a Completely Challenging Angle
Love Jefferson Nickels but aren’t as concerned about the cost or ease of acquiring them? There are Jefferson nickels for you! The five or six steps at the base of Monticello on the reverse represent a region of the coin that is frequently found with weak strike. On many of the vintage dates, the so-called Full Steps details can be extremely difficult. Some varieties are unknown to have any Full Steps representatives at all, while even some of the regular issues have no Full Steps specimens graded above MS65 or MS66. The Full Steps Jefferson Nickels often prove elusive and are a favorite target for PCGS Set Registry members building high-end collections of the series. When it comes to buying many of these crisp-looking specimens, prepare both your patience and your pocketbook.
#5 – Ripe Are the Pickings
Perhaps because there are rather fewish people building high-end Jefferson Nickel sets, one may find a little less competition when it comes to buying premier specimens for their collections as opposed to seeking out top-level specimens from other series. And as the Jefferson Nickel approaches its centennial in the late 2030s, we could see changes come to the five-cent coin – perhaps even a new design altogether. So, take this current time as a golden opportunity to jump into the Jefferson Nickel series now before more collectors jump aboard.