Are Old Jefferson Nickels Worth Anything?

The other day I found a 1938 Jefferson nickel in my change.

My initial thought was, “Wow… this is 70 years old. Surely it must be worth something.”

I think a lot of people tend to think that.

jefferson-nickels

 

Common Coins In Pocket Change

It happens the most with nickels because they are the coin we receive in our everyday change that has gone the longest without any significant change to the design (other than the special nickels of the last couple years).

Pennies changed in 1959. And all the other coins (dimes, quarters and up) either changed their design or at least went from being made of silver to steel after 1964.

Nickels though, have remained basically the same since 1938, when the Thomas Jefferson design (the Jefferson nickel) was introduced.

Alas, it tends to be that when a coin’s design is still current, the coins from that series stay pretty low in price.

 

How Much Are Jefferson Nickels Worth?

There are a few rare Jefferson nickels. The ones to particularly watch for are the 1938-D and 1938-S, plus the 1939-D and 1950-D. But even these are only worth $1-$5 in the condition you will most likely find them in your change (which is to say, pretty worn down after 60-70 years of circulation).

If you happen to find them in nearly pristine (almost new) condition, they’re worth several times as much, anywhere from $3 to $25. (Any nickel prior to 1956 is worth several times its face value in this condition, by the way).

Either way, that’s a nice bit of change for a coin that only “cost” you 5 cents.

 

Which Jefferson Nickel Is The Most Common?

The 1950-D Jefferson nickel might be the most likely find since it is later than the others, yet is worth $5 even in very worn condition.

The wartime nickels from 1942-1946 were made of 40% silver, so they are worth about $1 each.

I assume most people have removed them from circulation, but there may be some still out there because of the way most people assume Jeffersons are only worth face value.

 

A Word About Mint Marks…

In case you are not familiar with mint marks, each year of Jefferson nickels saw them made at 3 different mints — Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver.

So (most) nickels made in Philadelphia have a P somewhere on the design, while San Francisco nickels always have an S, and Denver nickels have a D.

Happy hunting and feel free to post any finds or questions here!

William

I've been a coin collector and a rare book and collectible dealer for over 15 years. My primary areas of interest are U.S. silver coins and older paper currency.

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  • Anonymous

    ihave been getting old nickles at work for the last couple of weeks and i havea 1954 nickle that has the 5 in the date that only pressed half of the 5. is this worth anything? i also have 1939, 1941, 1942, 1944, 1957, 1958 and a 1944 with a p over the monticeello on the back. are any of these worth anything. i run a cashregister at work and looking thru the coins is something i do to pass some time. the people i work with think im goofy cause this. i think its fun actually!

    • Anonymous

      Leblaux,

      As a coin collector, I agree — looking at coins IS fun! And it can pay off. Check for mintmarks on the back of your nickels –the mintmarks on pre-1965 Jefferson nickels are very tiny and just to the right of Monticello.

      A 1939-D or 1939-S are both worth $2 to $5 each in circulated grades (if your 1939 has a mintmark).

      Your 1944-P is a silver War nickel and is worth at least $1.

      The others are all worth 5 to 15 cents each and common.

      Good luck finding more of those old coins!

  • Ryan

    I happen to come across a 1941 Nickel but it doesn’t have an “S”, “D”,or a “P”. Does that mean anything?

    • Anonymous

      Yes, Ryan —

      The lack of a mintmark means your coin was made at the Philadelphia mint.

  • Dee

    I want to sell some old nickels and pennies. Around here…other than a FEW pennies…they are only willing to give you 2-3 cents for the wheaties. My nickels…other than the war nickels, they told me they aren’t worth anything but face value and just cash them in at the bank????? I have tons of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Should I just hold on to them until I move to a larger area?

    • Anonymous

      Hi, Dee —

      Yes, common wheat pennies that are worn are worth only a few cents each. The 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s nickels are worth hanging onto because they may (but no guarantee) increase in value in the future.

  • J.T

    I have a 1939 nickel and it does not have any d letter on it or anything else like that. What should I do with the nickel?

  • Valerie

    i have a Jefferson 1945 S nickle it is worn but when you turn it around the other side is upside down (wear as most coins face the same direction) can this error give it more value?

  • kendrick castle

    My name is Kendrick. I have a 1946. Silver dime and a silver. 1954 nickel D here is my number so some can call me at 606-255-6060 and tell me how much they are worth

  • Freda Hart

    I HAVE A 1954 PENNY, NICKLE, AND DIME AND I WANT TO SELL THEM IN BOX ME ON FACE BOOK AT FREDA HART

  • Bonnie

    1980 quarter with no face??
    Mint Error???
    Worth anything??

  • Bonnie

    here is the pic