One of the most famous US coins is for sure Jefferson’s nickel coin. This particular coin has been in circulation for more than 80 years. Even though this coin is pretty common in circulation and does not have any specific value a lot of collectors are interested in early specimens. Even the full sets of this coin are a very popular collectible item.
Since you would for sure like to know more about the collectible you are willing to invest in we wrote this short and informative guide. In this article, we will talk more about the 1979 nickel value, varieties, error coins, what affects the final price, and where you can buy them.
History Of The Jefferson Nickel Coin
It is known that in the 19th century, there was a general prejudice against portraits appearing on the coins. However, that all changed during the time when President Roosevelt ruled. In 1938. a Buffalo nickel celebrated 25 years of existence.
That year President Roosevelt decided that it was time to replace the current design with something new and more meaningful. Since President Roosevelt was a great supporter of the 3rd President of the US, Thomas Jefferson, he decided that it would be a great idea to honor him by placing his image on the nickel.
In that same year, the US Mint opened up the contest so people can submit ideas and designs for a new nickel look. This was an extremely uncommon practice at the time, and almost 390 different artists were involved.
There were only two mandatory conditions. First was that design must include a portrait of Jefferson on the obverse side. The second rule was that the reverse side must feature an image of the Monticello mansion. The winner was Felix Schlag, even though the officials of the US Mint did not like the style of lettering and the rendering of Monticello. The view of Monticello was from the corner of the house and they wanted a head-on view.
Nickel was the third circulating coin that eliminated an imaginary figure from the coin, such as American Indian (Buffalo nickel design) or Lady Liberty. This great change in nickel design was inspired by previous redesigns of penny and quarter coins that included Abraham Lincoln and George Washington’s portraits.
In the beginning, the coin was made from 75% copper and 25% nickel but during wartime, in need to save raw material, the composition was changed. So until 1945. Most nickels were made from 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese.
Main features that are characteristic of the 1979 Jefferson Nickel
The Jefferson nickel remained with the same design for ages, the only thing that was in change is the metal composition, regarding the current situation. Also, the design was changed slightly when it came to commemorative coins. However, no matter what, the obverse features former President Thomas Jefferson from the beginning of production.
The reverse side as well remained the same and depicted Monticello. While the initials of the designer and mint mark only changed the position on the coin. The obverse of the 1979 Jefferson nickel features an image of the third US President. He’s facing left while the bust is in the center. What draws attention is his clothing, which was modern at the time. You will notice the characteristic high collar on a coat and a hairdo that was characteristic of that period.
Along the left rime, just in front of the portrait, you will see the phrase “IN GOD WE TRUST”, while the word “LIBERTY” and the minting year are on the opposite side along the right rim. A star separates them.
The reverse of the 1979 Jefferson nickel features a Monticello building and it has the central position. If you take a good look you will see that just below its stairs is the word “MONTICELLO”. Located on the coin’s upper rim is the famous Latin phrase “E PLURIBUS UNUM”.
From one corner of the building to the other, along the edge inscription “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” is engraved. Just above it is the denomination “FIVE CENTS”. Most US coins have a reeded edge, while nickel coin feature a plain edge, simply because it is too low in value to be counterfeit.
1979 Nickel Value Guide
As we already mentioned Jefferson’s nickel coin was in the minting process from 1939. That means there are a lot of these coins in circulation nowadays. In fact, only in 1979, the US Mint minted 792,732,847 nickels. The San Francisco Mint only released proofs in two different types, while regular coins were minted in Denver and Philadelphia.
Here are the estimated value prices for regular 1979 nickel coins:
- 1979 No Mint mark Jefferson nickel – Coins minted in the Philadelphia mint had the largest circulation in 1979. None of the nickels have the mint mark which is typical for this mint. Nickels in a good state will be worth around $5. While those in perfect condition will be reaching higher prices. For instance, the 1979 MS 66 Jefferson nickel was sold for over $2,000.
- 1979 D Jefferson nickel – Coins minted in Denver mint had the second-largest mintage, and unfortunately, their abundance affects their current value. The price of an uncirculated coin can go above $2,000. For instance, a coin with grade 1979 D MS 67 was sold for $4,500.
- 1979 S proof Jefferson nickel – As usual San Francisco Mint minted only proof Jefferson nickels. They are easily recognized by the S mark on the obverse side. However, there are two types of “S” mint mark coins – Type 1 (features a filled S) and Type 2 (features a clear-cut S). Clear S specimens are known to be scarcer and more valuable than other type. Depending on the type of “S” coin you have you can expect to pay or earn around $150 for a Type 1 coin, and $200 for a Type 2 coin. Some extraordinary specimens will cost more, such as the 1979 S PR 70 Type 2 deep cameo coin that was sold for $2,530.
1979 Jefferson Nickel errors
Not every coin is perfectly made, a lot of them end up damaged during the minting process. However, most of those mint errors end up discarded by the mint, luckily for all coin enthusiasts some survive and end up on the market. Keep in mind that even a tiny problem in the minting process will label the coin with an error.
List of most valuable errors in 1979 nickel coins:
- Full steps – While all Jefferson nickels are known for a weak die strike, a lot of 1979 nickels feature a full-step error. This is an error where the steps at the entrance to Monticello are rarely complete. Full steps error is a gradation mark on coins that have five or six entirely visible steps. Coins that feature this specific error have a high value on the coin market. You can expect to pay up from $500 to $900. Their prices mainly depend on the mint mark and condition, and the highest price for this error was for the 1979 D MS 67 FS nickel which was sold for $4,500.
- Off-center nickel – This is a well-known error among collectors. It occurs when a die strikes a misplaced planchet. The end result is a missing design part. In most cases, you will notice an empty surface in the shape of a crescent that goes along the way of the opposite rim. Also, the coin sometimes loses its shape during minting. What is important is how much of the design is missing. If the error is small, and only 2% to 3% of the design is missing that won’t bring additional value. However, everything that goes from 50% or 60% off-center, and has the visible minting date and the mark will bring you a nice amount of money.
- Broad strike – When a circular die that is surrounding a bottom die breaks the metal blank expends. This occurs since there is no collar to prevent it so the coin spreads and distorts outwards. These arrows are pretty rare and valuable, and very easily recognizable.
- Die clash – When two dies hit each other without a planchet placed between them the design of two different sides ends up mixed together. Since the impact pressure is high, coins struck with such dies have an uncommon design on the surface, in most cases it is unrecognizable. However, these coins are pretty rare and valuable.
- Brokerage – An error like this occurs when the struck coin doesn’t fall out of the tray. At that moment a new planchet falls between it and the die. The die gets hit and the new planchet ends up having the image on one side, while the other side features a previously stuck coin. In most cases, these coins are off-center, but sometimes they are fully overlapping as well. This second type is more attractive to collectors.
- Nickel struck on a penny planchet – From time to time coins get struck on the wrong planchet, a penny, quarter, or even a dollar planchet. The blank plates of previously minted coins can remain in the container. It is known that there are some amount of 1979 nickel coins struck on the penny planchet.
Table of the most valuable Jefferson 1979 nickel coins
How The Mint State Grade Affect The Value Of The Jefferson Nickel?
An overview of your coin always begins with an inspection of the complete coin design and learning which grade it has. In the case of the Jefferson nickel, it begins by inspecting Jefferson’s home Monticello on the reverse side.
You will easily recognize a “Fine” coin from a “Good” coin when you look at the reverse side. There must be a clear image of four central pillars showing to get the grade “Fine”. If they are worn smooth that is clearly a “Good” condition nickel. Also, if all the main and small details on the obverse and reverse sides are sharp, with minor signs of wear, your coin is in “Extremely Fine” condition.
Here is how you can recognize mints state grade:
- Mint State Grade – If there are no wear signs on the surface of the coin especially on the highest points this is a coin in almost perfect condition. Look at Jefferson’s cheek and eyebrow, since these are high areas where wear occurs first. The luster and the shimmer must be high. Also, waves of hair are very detailed in contour, they must be high and low in relief and have similar luster and texture. On the reverse side look at the vertical lines of the Monticello building next to the windows. They must remain crisp and clear.
- Extremely Fine Grade – Light signs of wear are acceptable. You can notice the beginnings of smoothing out on a small portion of waves of hair. The flat areas will appear on the tops of hair waves. Sometimes these signs will be concentrated just above Jefferson’s ear. Also, wear signs are light on higher areas of the cheek, as well as around his eyebrows. A collar on the coat might show some signs of flattening as well. On the reverse side, Monticello begins to lose minor details so they become faint, such as pillars and triangular arches.
- Fine Grade – Here wear signs are heavy in the central areas creating major flat zones. Just above Jefferson’s ear, you will notice a smooth spot extending to the top of his head. Only traces of hair waves along the back and above the collar are clear. High points on Jefferson’s cheek and eyebrow are worn flat only a small separation spot can be seen between his cheek and the jaw area below. Even the shoulder alongside the rim is flat. On the reverse side, heavy wear impacted all the fine details. You can notice only small traces of pillars, while the central area of Monticello is slightly raised.
- Good Grade – The signs of wear are major, the entire design is smooth, and all the details are flat to outlines. Jefferson’s image remains outlined, and his hair is fully connected with his forehead. High points on the eyebrows and cheeks are connected with hair. The lettering on the rim is worn out. On the reverse side, Monticello is almost a flat surface with slight outlines. Letters along the rim are readable but not clear.
Where To Look For 1979 Jefferson Nickels?
When buying or selling your valuable collectible it is always important to find a rusted dealer or institution. This is especially important when we talk about collectibles such as coins, banknotes, stamps, and error coins.
If you are an amateur you will have a hard time recognizing a real coin from a fake one. Also, you can end up buying an error coin which in fact isn’t a true error coin. Make sure you always check the sellers to avoid being scammed. Your first option should always be a reliable auction house or reputable coin web pages such as Heritage Auctions, PCGS, Coins For Sale, or Littleton Coin Company.
Naturally, you should explore places like eBay, Etsy, and LiveAuctioneers to get valuable information such as price and how popular the coin is currently. Unfortunately, web platforms such as these can be a risky place to sell or buy a valuable coin if you aren’t experienced in this field. Before you make any purchase always consult with a specialist.
Where to look for error coins?
It is not easy to find a rare and valuable error coin. However, there are some useful tricks that can increase your chances of finding one. Here are some tips that can be helpful:
- Look for bankrolls – This isn’t surprising at all, but bankrolls of Jefferson nickels are where many people have found rare Jefferson nickel errors and varieties.
- Yard sales and estate sales – Make sure you visit these places since many people don’t know to recognize a valuable coin and end up selling them under the price.
- Coin shop – Some coin dealers aren’t aware of different Jefferson nickel errors and varieties. This means you can look for potentially valuable error coins among the “regular” coins.
Which is the most valuable Jefferson nickel?
Since Jefferson’s nickel coin is in production since 1938, most of you think that the expensive specimens are from that early period. Well, that isn’t the truth. In fact, the most valuable nickel is produced in 1954 in the San Francisco Mint. This is an error Full Steps coin and it was sold for over $35,000.
How to recognize a War Nickel?
War nickels were minted from 1942 until 1945. They consist of around 35% silver so they are a bit more valuable. Unfortunately, most have been removed from circulation, however, you can still find them on the market.
Here is how you’ll recognize them. Look at the reverse side and if there is a mint mark (P, D, or S) placed over the dome of Monticello, then you hit the jackpot.
Is There A Market For Jefferson Nickels?
Now considering how low denomination this coin has, it is quite normal to ask if there is a market for it. The short answer is yes. In fact, Jefferson nickels are still being made at the U.S. Mint and are still in circulation.
Even though these coins from circulation don’t have any value, there are a few specimens that are worth your attention. Keep in mind that Jefferson nickels made between 1942 in 1945 are made with 35% silver, so these coins are a bit more valuable than regular ones.
Hopefully, this article answered some of the questions and helped you figure out how to handle your precious coins. In case you know some information that we didn’t mention here, please do not hesitate to share your opinions and advice in the comment section below.