Early Jefferson Nickel Values 1938 - 1964

Jefferson Nickels
 James Bucki

Jefferson nickels minted between 1938 and 1964 are not very popular amongst coin collectors. In fact, you can still pluck most of these coins right from your pocket change. Therefore, this series rarely gets the respect that it deserves from intermediate and advanced coin collectors. However, you will find that collecting Jefferson Nickels can be very rewarding and challenging.

Jefferson Nickel History and Design

The Jefferson nickel was first minted in 1938 and replaced the Buffalo (or Indian Head) nickel that was minted since 1913.

Felix Schlag designed the Jefferson nickel and was paid  $1,000 for winning a design competition amongst 390 different artists. However, officials at the United States Mint did not like the style of lettering he chose for the coin and his rendering of Monticello (Jefferson's home). The winning design had a view of Monticello coming from the corner of the house. The mint officials wanted a head-on view of the iconic building.

This was the third circulating coin that United States Mint eliminated a symbolic figure from the coin, such as Lady Liberty or an American Indian, and replace the portrait on the obverse with a former president of the United States. Previous coins that were redesign included Abraham Lincoln was featured on the penny in 1909 and in 1932 George Washington began being featured on the quarter.

The coin weighs 5 grams and is composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel. Approximately halfway through 1942, in an effort to save raw material for the war effort, the composition was changed to 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese (.05626 t oz ASW).

This silver composition continued until the end of 1945. The Jefferson nickel has a diameter of 21.2 mm and has a plain edge.

Market For Jefferson Nickels

Jefferson nickels are still being made at the U.S. Mint and are actively used in commerce. Therefore, most circulated specimens are worth only face value.

 However, there are a few specimens that are worth a little more. Jefferson Nickels made between 1942 in 1945, are also called War Nickels and consisted of 35% silver. This means they are worth more than face value and most of them have been removed from circulation. An easy way to identify these more valuable coins is to look on the reverse. If there is a letter (P, D or S) over the dome of Monticello,  then it is a silver coin.

Key Dates, Rarities, and Varieties

The following Jefferson nickels in any condition, are worth more than common coins that you can find in your pocket.  Therefore, look at the coin carefully or have the coin authenticated by a reputable coin dealer or third-party grading service.

  • 1939-D
  • 1942 to 1945 - Wartime Silver Alloy
    Note: If the mint mark on the reverse is above the building (see the "Mint Mark Location" photo below), the coin contains 35% silver or about 0.0563 troy ounces of pure silver.
  • 1943 P 3/2 - Doubled Die Obverse
  • 1949 D D/S - Re-punched Mint Mark (or RPM)
  • 1950 D
  • 1954 S S/D - RPM
  • 1955 D D/S - RPM

Condition or Grade 

If your coin is worn and looks similar to the one illustrated in the link below, it is considered a circulated coin.

    If your coin looks similar to the one illustrated in the link below and has no evidence of wear due to being in circulation, it is considered an uncirculated coin.

    Mint Marks

    As illustrated in the photo in the link below, the mint mark is located on the reverse of the coin, right side next to Monticello for coins dated 1938 to 1942 and 1946 to 1964: Philadelphia (no mint mark), Denver (D) and San Francisco (S).  Beginning in 1942 and lasting until 1945, the Mint used an alloy of 35% silver and made the mint mark larger and moved above Monticello. During this time coins minted in Philadelphia had a "P" for a mint mark, while coins minted in Denver and San Francisco continued to use a "D" and "S" respectively.

    • Photo of the Jefferson Nickel (1938-1942 and 1946-1964) Mint Mark Location
    • Photo of the Wartime Silver Alloy Jefferson Nickel (1942-1945) Mint Mark Location

    Average Prices and Values

    The buy price is what you can expect to pay to a coin dealer to purchase a Jefferson nickel. The sell value is what you can expect a coin dealer to pay you if you sell the coin. These are approximate retail prices and wholesale values. The actual offer you receive from an individual coin dealer will vary depending on the agreed-upon grade of the coin and a variety of other factors that determine its worth.

    Date & MintCirc. BuyCirc. Sell Unc. BuyUnc. Sell
    1938$0.30$0.15 $4.50$3.50
    1938-D$0.90$0.50 $5.50$4.50
    1938-S$1.20$0.70 $5.50$4.00
    1939$0.13F.V. $3.00$2.00
    1939-D$3.00$1.50 $55.00$47.00
    1939-S$0.60$0.35 $18.00$14.00
    1940$0.06F.V. $2.50$1.70
    1940-D$0.10F.V. $3.50$2.50
    1940-S$0.10F.V. $4.50$3.50
    1941$0.07F.V. $2.50$1.50
    1941-D$0.10F.V. $4.50$3.50
    1941-S$0.10F.V. $5.00$3.50
    1942$0.08F.V. $5.00$3.70
    War Time Silver Alloy     
    1942-P TII$1.00$0.50 $7.00$5.00
    1942-D$0.30$0.15 $19.00$13.00
    1942-S$1.00$0.50 $6.00$4.50
    1943-P$1.00$0.50 $5.00$3.50
    1943-P 3 over 2$35.00$25.00 $300.00$250.00
    1943-D$1.00$0.50 $4.00$3.00
    1943-S$1.00$0.50 $4.50$3.50
    1944-P$1.00$0.50 $5.50$4.00
    1944-D$1.00$0.50 $7.00$5.00
    1944-S$1.00$0.50 $6.00$4.00
    1945-P$1.00$0.50 $5.00$3.50
    1945-D$1.00$0.50 $5.00$3.50
    1945-S$1.00$0.50 $4.50$3.00
    Resume Copper Nickel Alloy     
    Date & MintCirc. BuyCirc. Sell Unc. BuyUnc. Sell
    1946$0.06F.V. $1.70$1.00
    1946-D$0.06F.V. $1.70$1.00
    1946-S$0.06F.V. $1.70$1.00
    1947$0.06F.V. $1.30$1.00
    1947-D$0.06F.V. $2.90$1.90
    1947-S$0.06F.V. $3.00$2.20
    1948$0.06F.V. $1.30$1.00
    1948-D$0.06F.V. $2.30$1.60
    1948-S$0.09F.V. $2.70$1.80
    1949$0.09F.V. $1.90$1.00
    1949-D$0.09F.V. $1.90$1.00
    1949-D D over S$28.00$13.00 $190.00$120.00
    1949-S$0.30$0.15 $2.20$1.50
    1950$0.10F.V. $1.70$1.00
    1950-D$6.00$2.90 $12.30$8.30
    1951$0.10F.V. $2.80$1.90
    1951-D$0.10F.V. $3.30$2.30
    1951-S$0.17F.V. $3.70$2.50
    1952$0.07F.V. $2.80$1.90
    1952-D$0.10F.V. $4.00$2.70
    1952-S$0.10F.V. $2.00$1.00
    1953$0.10F.V. $1.30$1.00
    1953-D$0.10F.V. $1.30$1.00
    1953-S$0.10F.V. $1.50$1.00
    1954$0.10F.V. $1.20$1.00
    1954-D$0.06F.V. $1.00$0.64
    1954-S$0.06F.V. $2.20$1.60
    1954-S S over D$4.90$2.50 $41.00$28.00
    Date & MintCirc. BuyCirc. Sell Unc. BuyUnc. Sell
    1955$0.18F.V. $1.00$0.70
    1955-DF.V.F.V. $1.00$0.59
    1955-D D over S$5.50$2.90 $48.00$33.00
    1956F.V.F.V. $1.00F.V.
    1956-DF.V.F.V. $1.00F.V.
    1957F.V.F.V. $0.75F.V.
    1957-DF.V.F.V. $0.75F.V.
    1958F.V.F.V. $1.00F.V.
    1958-DF.V.F.V. $0.75F.V.
    1959F.V.F.V. $0.50F.V.
    1959-DF.V.F.V. $0.50F.V.
    1960F.V.F.V. $0.50F.V.
    1960-DF.V.F.V. $0.50F.V.
    1961F.V.F.V. $0.50F.V.
    1961-DF.V.F.V. $0.50F.V.
    1962F.V.F.V. $0.50F.V.
    1962-DF.V.F.V. $0.50F.V.
    1963F.V.F.V. $0.50F.V.
    1963-DF.V.F.V. $0.50F.V.
    1964F.V.F.V. $0.50F.V.
    1964-DF.V.F.V. $0.50F.V.
    Date-Mint Set

    Total Coins: 71
    $32.00$13.50 $275.00$200.00
    Date Set

    Total Coins: 27
    $10.00$3.00 $55.00$40.00

    *= See the section above "Key Dates, Rarities and Varieties" for more information on these coins.
    F.V. = Face Value