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Did you know that all 1951 nickels are worth more than face value?
Even better, some are worth a few dollars… or more.
And a few are worth thousands of dollars!
So, which 1951 Jefferson nickels should you be looking for?
In this post, I’m going to answer your questions about 1951 nickels — including:
- Are 1951 nickels rare?
- What are the 4 types of 1951 Jefferson nickels?
- How much are 1951 nickels worth?
- What’s the easiest way to find valuable nickels?
Are 1951 Nickels Rare?
It’s the 1951-S nickel!
This is one of the scarcest regular-issue Jefferson nickels made for circulation and has a mintage of fewer than 8 million pieces.
See how much the 1951-S nickel is worth below…
4 Types Of 1951 Jefferson Nickels
Let’s look at each of the 4 different types of 1951 nickels, including how many were made and how much they’re worth.
But first, you need to know where the mintmark is on a 1951 nickel…
Look on the reverse (“tails side”) — just to the right of Monticello. If there’s a mintmark on the coin, you’ll find it between the right side of the building between it and the rim. Here’s what the letters mean:
- An “S” means the coin was made at the San Francisco Mint.
- A “D” means it was made at the Denver Mint.
- If you don’t see a mintmark, then your 1951 nickel was made at the Philadelphia Mint.
Okay, now let’s talk about each of the 4 types of Jefferson nickels, one by one.
#1 – 1951 No Mintmark Nickel Value
The 1951 Jefferson nickel without a mintmark was made at the Philadelphia Mint and is the most common of the 4 types of Jefferson nickels made that year.
A total of 28,552,000 were struck — millions more than the number of nickels made at any other mint in 1951.
And even though the 1951 Philadelphia Mint Jefferson nickel is the most common nickel from that year, even these are worth more than face value!
The reason? With 28.5 million nickels minted, the 1951 date is still considered relatively scarce. This is especially the case with uncirculated examples that were never used as money:
- Average circulated examples are worth 15 cents to 50 cents apiece.
- Typical uncirculated specimens have a value of $2.50 to $10.
- An uncirculated example with Full Steps details at the base of Monticello is worth $25 and up.
- The record price for a 1951 Jefferson nickel is $16,450.
So, while that well-worn 1951 nickel without a mintmark that you found in pocket change may not be worth hundreds of dollars, it’s at least worth a few times more than face value!
#2 – 1951-D Nickel Value
Scarcer than the 1951 Philly nickel, the 1951-D nickel from the Denver Mint saw a mintage of 20,460,000 pieces. Now, while that’s a big number, that’s rather scarce in the context of 1950s coinage — and these pieces are pretty hard to find in circulation.
The 1951-D Jefferson nickel is much scarcer in uncirculated grades than it is in worn condition — but even with tons of wear, this old nickel is worth more than face value:
- A typical worn example is worth about 20 to 50 cents.
- Uncirculated specimens are worth $3 to $10.
- Pieces exhibiting Full Steps details are worth about $20 or more.
- The record price for the 1951-D nickel in a public transaction is $3,840.
The bottom line… While circulated specimens aren’t worth the big bucks, the uncirculated ones are. Yet, even though fewer 1951-D nickels were made, the uncirculated prices are lower than they are for the Philly pieces. Why is that?
Scarceness isn’t always about mintage figures. The rarity of a coin is more contingent on how many survive and what those population figures are at certain grade levels. In the case of the Philly Mint specimens, fewer appear to have been saved in mint condition. Plus, it can sometimes be much harder to find nice, high-grade Philadelphia-mint examples with Full Steps details.
#3 – 1951-S Nickel Value
This is the rarest of the circulating 1951 nickels.
The 1951-S Jefferson nickel was made at the San Francisco Mint in a small batch of 7,776,000 pieces. That number makes it the 6th-lowest mintage among all circulating Jefferson nickels. So, what does that mean for value?
Surprisingly, not very much. In fact, in average circulated condition and even in typical Mint States grades it’s generally worth less than the higher-mintage 1951 and 1951-D nickels. What gives?
Coin collectors were well aware early on that the 1951-S Jefferson nickel was going to be made in small numbers, so they began saving the coin in large quantities. This is, yet again, why mintage numbers don’t always matter when it comes to determining how rare a coin is or what its value may be.
Here are the 1951-S nickel values:
- An average circulated specimen is worth 10 to 30 cents.
- A typical uncirculated example is worth $1.50 to $10.
- A Full Steps specimen has a value of $100 and up.
- The record price paid for the 1951-S nickel is $18,600.
So, while typical worn or mint condition specimens of this coin aren’t necessarily worth tons of money, the high-end examples are — particularly the Full Steps pieces. This comes down to overall quality. It was often the case that Jefferson nickels struck at the branch mints (mints outside of Philadelphia) weren’t always struck so well. And, in the case of the Full Steps designation, it’s contingent on the strike. The stronger the strike, the finer the details are.
#4 – 1951 Proof Nickel Value
The United States Mint struck a limited number of collectors-only proof Jefferson nickels in 1951.
These proof nickels were made with polished planchets and struck by specially prepared dies. They were also intentionally struck at least twice to impart full details on the coin — even the minute ones.
These proof nickels were made at the Philadelphia Mint to the tune of 57,500 pieces. And while that’s a tiny number compared to even the 1951-S mintage, the vast majority of these were saved by collectors and remain in decent condition today. So while scarce, there is a significant supply for collectors who want them.
A typical 1951 proof Jefferson nickel is worth about $50. But if you’ve learned anything by now, it’s that price depends on condition. And in the case of the 1951 proof nickel, one of the nicest ever known scored a record price of $9,500!
Tips For Finding Old Nickels
It’s usually pretty hard to find old coins made about the time when the 1951 Jefferson nickels were first hitting the street.
But when it comes to locating old rare coins, Jefferson nickels offer an advantage for collectors. The designs barely changed on the nickel from the time Felix Schlag first designed them and they were released in 1938 until the debut of the Westward Journey nickels in 2004.
So, to many people outside of the hobby, a 1951 nickel at first glance looks just like any other “regular” nickel. Of course, after reading this article you’ll know how to tell the difference!
Plus, there are many collectors (and even coin dealers!) who don’t know all the different errors and varieties on Jefferson nickels. So, you could actually cherrypick some really cool and valuable coins without having to spend a ton of extra money buying them from a coin shop.
If you’re trying to look for 1951 nickels, including errors and varieties, your best bet might be searching through old bank rolls. These can be bought from your local bank or financial institution for face value ($2 for a standard roll of 40 nickels). Bank rolls are often fertile searching grounds for lots of old and valuable coins — it’s a great avenue to consider if you wish to land some rare nickels at face value!
I’m the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I’m a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I’m also the editor at CDN Publishing (a trusted source for the price of U.S. rare coins), editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I’ve contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I’ve also authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!