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You’ve probably heard about Full Steps nickels — but maybe you’re unsure about what they are and exactly what features to look for on a Full Steps nickel.
Jefferson nickels with Full Steps details are relatively scarce — and they’re quite valuable!
Read on to learn:
- What constitutes a Full Steps nickel
- How much Full Steps nickels are worth
- Whether they’re rare or not
- How to find them for cheap
- Tips for collecting Full Steps Jefferson nickels
What Is A Full Steps Nickel?
Coin grading may be more an art than a science, in many cases. But when it comes to determining what Full Steps are on a Jefferson nickel, there’s no quibbling — Full Steps means full steps!
Here are the 3 general requirements:
- Full Steps nickels must grade Mint State-60 or better. That means the old Jefferson nickel you found in pocket change that “looks almost perfect” simply can’t be a Full Steps nickel.
- The Full Steps grading designation only applies to uncirculated Jefferson nickels. Proof Jefferson nickels characteristically have Full Steps details — because they are specially struck to help bring up even the most minute of details.
- If you do have a Jefferson nickel that’s in uncirculated condition and appears to have Full Steps details on first glance, then take a closer look with a 5X magnifying glass. There must be at least 5 full steps visible near the base of Monticello AND each of the steps must be distinct and full, unbroken, and show no signs of weakness or contact marks.
Because of all the qualifications required for a Jefferson nickel to be considered Full Steps, such pieces are generally scarce. Many are rare. And some dates have absolutely no known Full Steps examples at all!
For that reason, many Full Steps Jefferson nickels are quite valuable!
Are Full Steps Nickels Rare?
If you’re wondering which are the rarest and most valuable Full Steps Jefferson nickels, here are the rules of thumb regarding rare Full Steps nickels:
- Jefferson nickels before 1970 are generally quite scarce. (Post-1983 Jefferson nickels with Full Steps are much more common.)
- The rarest Full Steps Jefferson nickels are those from the Denver Mint and San Francisco Mint — especially those dated in the 1950s and 1960s.
- Full Steps Jefferson nickels grading above Mint State-65 are rare across the board, regardless of date.
How Much Is A Full Steps Nickel Worth?
That’s the million-dollar question. Er, maybe in the case of Jefferson nickels… a thousand-dollar question. Yep, many Full Steps nickels are worth several thousands of dollars apiece!
There are no hard-and-fast values for Full Steps nickels, because:
- The value of these coins depends on their individual grade.
- Some dates are rarer than others with Full Steps details.
The rarest Full Steps Jefferson nickels are also the most valuable:
- The highest values across the grading spectrum are generally those from the 1950s and 1960s.
- Since only a handful of specimens grade at the top of their respective issue, virtually every date has many examples that are worth several hundred dollars.
- Record prices for each date are generally in the $2,500 to $10,000 range (sometimes more) — for each date in the highest available Mint State grade with Full Steps details.
Tips For Collecting Full Steps Nickels
Who collects Full Steps Jefferson nickels?
Well, really anybody who wants the best-quality Jefferson nickels they can find!
See… while these well-struck nickels are usually quite rare and expensive, they also represent the best of the best business-strike Jefferson nickels around. So, people who are building collections of nickels based on the highest-graded specimens they can find will gravitate toward collecting Full Steps nickels — even if they do cost a whole lot more than examples without the Full Steps details.
One way that hobbyists focus their efforts on collecting Full Steps nickels is by building registry sets.
The major third-party coin grading services offer registry sets — which essentially serve as online resources that virtually display and catalog an individual’s coin collection and are ranked by the number of coins included in the set and a grade-point average determined by the overall numerical grades of the coins in the set.
Grade point bonuses are often awarded for coins with certain positive attributes, and the Full Steps designation on a Jefferson nickel can go a long way toward helping a collector achieve a better registry set score for a collection of Jefferson nickels.
While registry sets are one of the most popular destinations for top-quality Full Steps Jefferson nickels, they’re not the only reason collectors spend valuable time and money seeking out and buying these premium coins.
Many collectors pursue these high-grading valuable Jefferson nickels for their coin sets that are housed in typical coin folders and coin albums, as well.
No matter how one stores their Jefferson nickels, a typical collector desiring Full Steps nickels will attempt to buy one example of every date available. Needless to say, this is a much more expensive and challenging venture than merely acquiring one worn (or typical) uncirculated version of every nickel! But it’s a worthwhile goal nonetheless.
How To Get Full Steps Nickels For Cheap
Clearly, you’re really not going to find any Full Steps Jefferson nickels picking through the coins in your pocket change.
But that doesn’t mean you have to pay full retail price to buy rare coins like this for your collection!
Here are 3 ways to get a rare Jefferson nickel for a fraction of its value:
#1 – Cherrypick through coins at coin shops.
Many coin dealers don’t take the time to check for the presence of complete step details on the Jefferson nickels in their inventory. This is your opportunity to spend time looking through the uncirculated Jefferson nickels in your coin dealer’s inventory for Full Steps Jefferson nickels that may be marked at the prices charged for “ordinary” pieces. (Be sure to check out those half-price off boxes!)
#2 – Look through bank rolls.
You can find uncirculated Jefferson nickels in rolls of nickels from the bank. A standard roll of 40 Jefferson nickels costs $2 (face value) and may yield a variety of old and valuable coins — including Full Steps nickels that are in truly uncirculated condition. Imagine finding a Jefferson nickel with Full Steps worth $25, $50, or $150 for only 5 cents! It could happen to you…
#3 – Trade your coin for someone else’s.
Full Steps Jefferson nickels are cool coins. But let’s face it, they’re not for everybody. Maybe one of your coin collecting friends has some Full Steps nickels they don’t want anymore — and maybe you have a coin that they’re looking for! Consider trading the coins you don’t want for the Full Steps Jefferson nickels you do. That way it’s a win-win and you’ll both be happy with the deal. Plus you will have saved a ton of money and a trip to the coin shop! (Not that there’s anything wrong with buying coins from coin dealers.)
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 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 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!