Welcome to the third installment of "Tips from the Grading Room." Last issue we took a look at what constituted a "Full Bands" Mercury dime, designated "FB" by PCGS. This time, we'll examine the "Full Steps" designation for Jefferson Nickels.
Full Steps (FS) is the designation following the numerical grade of some regular-strike MS60 or higher Jefferson nickels that have at least five separated steps (lines) at the base of Monticello. Any major disturbance or interruption of these steps or lines, whether caused by contact, planchet problems, or another source, will result in the coin's not being designated FS. Only the slightest weakness on any step (line) is allowed for this designation. Some issues are almost never seen with Full Steps and may command a significant premium.
On early issues, there are two different reverses: The Reverse of 1938, found on 1938 issues and some 1939s; and the Reverse of 1940, found on some 1939s and all following years. The steps on the Reverse of 1940 are considerably sharper.
The following four photographs show a coin with 100% Full Steps, then one with the minimum requirements for Full Steps, followed by a coin which falls just short of the threshold for Full Steps. Finally, we show an example with almost no steps – a ramp nickel, if you will.