Rare Nickels: These Are The Scarcest Jefferson Nickels (And Yes… You Can Still Find Them In Circulation!)



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Did you know that a few Jefferson nickels, the 5-cent coin that Americans have seen in their pocket change since 1938, are actually considered scarce?

A pile of Jefferson nickels
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Believe it or not, the Jefferson nickels series contains a few coins with less than 10 million total struck — a low enough number which, for a popularly collected series like Jefferson nickels warrants these particular dates to be considered relatively scarce.

Making matters all the better is that these rare nickels actually can be found in circulation — with a bit of luck, of course!

Must read: Rare Coins vs. Scarce Coins: What’s The Difference?

So, which Jefferson nickels are considered relatively scarce, with mintages of less than 10 million?

Rare Jefferson Nickels

Except for proof issues (with numbers under 10 million each but quite common in proof sets), here the 9 scarcest, regular-issue (produced for circulation purposes) Jefferson nickels:

#1 – 1938-D Jefferson Nickel

The Denver issue from the first year of the Jefferson nickel series, only 5,376,000 of these coins were minted. The 1938-D starts at a price of about $1.50 for an average-circulated Jefferson nickel.

#2 – 1938-S Jefferson Nickel

The San Francisco mint churned out only 4,105,000 first-year Jefferson nickels, among the 3 scarcest coins of the regular-issue Jefferson nickels. The 1939-S has a base price tag of around $2.50 for a typical, circulated Jefferson nickel.

#3 – 1939-D Jefferson Nickel

Coming in as the second scarcest regular-issue Jefferson nickel, the 1939-D is among the top of Jefferson nickel collectors’ wish lists. This piece, has risen in value a bit over recent years, with a low-end price tag of about $6.

#4 – 1939-S Jefferson Nickel

Though not quite as scarce as its Denver cousin, the 1939-S is still a coin that is very difficult to locate in circulation and does cost a slight premium over other regular-issue Jefferson nickels in average-circulated condition. With a mintage of 6,630,000 the 1939-S Jefferson nickel typically costs about $1.50 in decent circulated condition.

#5 – 1949-S Jefferson Nickel

With some 9,716,000 being churned out, the 1949-S nickel is among the least scarce of the nickels listed here, but still under the 10,000,000 threshold and, thus, among the hardest-to-locate Jefferson nickels in the entire series. The 1949-S Jefferson nickel can be had for about 75 cents in circulated grades.

#6 – 1950 No Mintmark Jefferson Nickel

1950 was a pretty lean year for nickel production. Only 9,847,386 1950 nickels rolled out of the Philadelphia mint, making the 1950 Jefferson nickel a coin worth looking for — and one that is certainly needed if you are completing a Jefferson nickel series collection. The 1950 Jefferson nickel can be purchased for around $1 in middle circulated grades.

#7 – 1950-D Jefferson Nickel

Every good coin series has its “key” coin. The Lincoln cents have the 1909-S V.D.B., the Mercury dimes have the 1916-D, and the Standing Liberty Quarter series would not be the challenge it is without its 1916 key. Which one coin is the most sought-after Jefferson nickel? None other than the 1950-D Jefferson nickel. That’s right, a modern-day “rarity,” with just 2,630,030 produced.

A popular key coin ever since it first was released, causing people in mainstream America to look for and snap up these 1950-D Jefferson nickels, this coin at one time cost many hundreds of times its face value in uncirculated condition. While the fervor has since quieted around the 1950-D Jefferson nickel since its peak in popularity decades ago, this is still a coin that has people in the Jefferson nickel and modern coin communities buzzing.

Because it was saved in bulk quantities early on, most 1950-D nickels you find in dealers’ cases will be uncirculated. However, worn 1950-D Jefferson nickels certainly exist, and it is not at all impossible to even come across one in your change today. To buy a 1950-D Jefferson nickel will set you back about $15 or so in circulated grades, but only around $20 in uncirculated — remember, many were saved from day one.

#8 – 1951-S Jefferson Nickel

Not nearly as scarce as the 1950-D but still a toughie, the 1951-S Jefferson nickel comes in with a mintage of 7,776,000 — still a coin which will be difficult to find in circulation. The 1951-S Jefferson nickel costs around 75 cents to purchase in average-circulated condition.

#9 – 1955 Jefferson Nickel

With 8,266,200 minted, the 1955 nickel demands a good eye and a bit of luck to spot in circulation. It also commands a slight premium over other average-circulated, more common Jefferson nickels, starting at around 50 cents to purchase a circulated 1955 Jefferson nickel.

Where To Find These Rare Nickels

As you can see, even the scarcest of the Jefferson nickels are not at all cost-prohibitive for the average coin collector — making Jefferson nickels a very good series to assemble for most anyone.

Incredibly, these rare nickels can, on occasion, still be found in circulation.

So with a keen eye, patience, using a fine tooth comb through many rolls of Jefferson nickels, and keeping your eyes on your change… you just may be able to complete a series of regular strike Jeffersons without paying more than face value!

However, if you are like many people, you may instead decide to buy these rare nickels — since they’re so difficult to find. The good part: prices are currently very affordable.

Joshua

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!

19 thoughts on “Rare Nickels: These Are The Scarcest Jefferson Nickels (And Yes… You Can Still Find Them In Circulation!)

  1. i need some help. i have a 1997 d double die jefferson nickel, so far no one could tell me any thing about it, the front side is double while the back is just fine

    1. Hi James,

      Please see the comments left for you at The Fun Times Guide to Coins website: https://www.facebook.com/#!/TheFunTimesGuideToCoins.

    2. I know the 1997 P nickel can be founded doubled died ,but I haven’t heard or read anything about D being doubled died. I’ve went through hundreds of them and haven’t found one yet. So, you might have something new no one knows about yet. Usually, if it’s an new discovery and it’s found to be rare. You might make a lot of money if you talk to the right person. I’d love to have it ,but I can’t afford it.

      1. Or, it could be that it’s just machine doubling, which is actually considered damage. The best thing to do is take it to a professional coin dealer and have it examined in person. Here’s a search engine where you can locate reputable dealers near you: https://www.pngdealers.com/dealersearch.php

    1. Not always, ilani – even the famous 1955 doubled die Lincoln cent is worth $1,000 – $5,000 in most cases.

    1. Hello, Ethan –

      Your 1939-D and 1949-S Lincoln cents are worth around 5 to 10 cents each, so if you are still interested in selling them, I’d go to a coin dealer. Here’s some more info on how to pick a reputable coin dealer: https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/coin_dealer/

      And here is a great search engine for finding a trustworthy coin dealer in your neck of the woods: https://www.pngdealers.org/find-a-png-dealer?view=browselist

  2. hello, I found a 1943 Mercury Dime with the Obverse being a mercury & the reverse being a Wheat Penny. it is the size of a dime and you can see the two layers of alloys (Obverse Silver & Reverse Copper or bronze. how can I get this coin evaluated or verified?

    1. Hi Patrick,

      What you have is what illusionists usually call a “gaffe” coin – one that is supposed to trick an audience into thinking a coin was magically turned from a penny into a dime (in this case). While it has no numismatic value per se, it is a neat piece nevertheless and great for tricking YOUR friends (if you’re into that kind of thing)!

  3. hello, yes I can understand what you believe, However, this is not the case, as the penny side is cut down to dime size and the alloys are pressed like any other coin. I just do not see any one going through such lengths for a trick coin.

    1. Patrick, as a collector I can confirm Joshua’s evaluation. “Gaffe” coins are made by the bucketful and sold in novelty and magic shops, along with double-headed and double-tailed coins.

      Producing them used to require skilled toolwork but now they can be created using computer-guided machinery, so there’s not much effort involved.

  4. hi, i am sure you have heard of the 1964 nickel with e pluribus unum misspelled to read e pluridus unum. but i found a 1947 nickel no mint mark with this error. please note that i also suspect that it may be a henning nickel. my scanner ac adapter is toast, so i can’t send a picture til i get the new one. if you could tell me if you ever heard of such an error on a 1947 nickel, i would really appreciate it.

    thank you very much for your time

    1. Hi, Rhonda —

      I don’t know of such an error; the apparent misspelling might be due to post-mint damage. When you can get a photo up I’d be glad to check it out!

      Thank you,
      Josh

    1. Hi, Kelly —

      Here’s more info to help you on the value of your 1943 penny: https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/1943-penny-value/

      Good luck!
      Josh

  5. I have a 1918 Penny that has been marked with an x on obverse and reverse of a working die by an employee of the mint, and the reason for this is because V.D.B should not be on the reverse, 1918 was the year they brought the initials back but moved to the obverse shoulder. A 1909 vdb anvil working die had to have been paired with a 1918 obverse and it looks like they marked it for removal but some planchettes made it through before the working die could be pulled.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ce6ff360845c0f5f5ed46e746e30494656a129299e4570b351e247e7ccbfc551.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fb408e71863c90a9127dcb33e2917ea811204f330517b1b6af42fd582e392113.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/16b92d872b81dcd47927c64326fce09bde95b885553a23c83e64778665fefb41.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/49091decf43bdfda6e9ba2ec97547e1c86eceada6568309242d62b0b6ebac188.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5ecc55ba46684d8e56967417bfc5cacb5ec0712edd9badaf0ae3bf7bb16f282d.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/387f935330af15460de2d7b3e2f8f8e2c4c32033e9f626c5e9fbaf08a31c78f6.jpg

    1. Hi, Shaun —

      While it’s true that 1918 was the year the U.S. Mint moved Brenner’s VDB initials to the obverse under Lincoln’s shoulder, I’m afraid this “X” likely has nothing to do with the cancellation of any dies but is rather a form of post-mint damage… There appears to be channeling around the “X” on the reverse, which would not have occurred if this “X” was stamped onto the coin die. There’s evidence of other cuts into the surface around the “X” (which could not have occurred if the “X” was stamped onto the die) and solder or another foreign material on the surface of the coin around the “X”s on the obverse and reverse.

      Finally, I don’t see any evidence of the “VDB” on the base of the reverse… That would be evident if this were indeed a VDB-emblazoned reverse…

      Of course, you’re free to seek a second opinion or submit this to a third-party coin grading service, but my call is post-mint damage. ‘

      Best wishes,
      Josh

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