1988 D Jefferson Nickel: Full Steps Lead to Full Prices

Jefferson Nickel Overview

Designed by sculptor Felix Schlag, the Jefferson Nickel was first minted in 1938 to replace the widely circulated Buffalo Nickel. Schlag’s design was meant to commemorate founding father and United States President, Thomas Jefferson.

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The obverse of the coin features a portrait of Thomas Jefferson facing left, with the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the left edge of the field. The date and the word “LIBERTY” can be found in the right field.

On the reverse of the coin is Jefferson’s house, Monticello, with the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” above and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” below. The denomination “FIVE CENTS” can be found directly below the word “MONTICELLO.”

Composition and design changes have happened several times throughout the life of the Jefferson nickel. From 1942-1945, the Jefferson nickel was made from silver and copper, a step away from the original and current copper-nickel mix.

Changes in design happened in 1982 and 1987 when the steps of Monticello were sharpened and Jefferson’s hair was given more detail.

Jefferson Nickels weigh 5 grams and have a diameter of 21.2mm. The composition of the coin from 1938-1941 and 1946-present has been 75% copper and 25% nickel. Nickels minted between 1941 and 1945 were made of a combination of 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese.

If you want to learn more about the Jefferson Nickel and other collectible nickels, check out The Ultimate Guide To Nickels.

1988 D Jefferson Nickel History

Most modern nickels tend to not have a very interesting history since minting techniques have gotten much better and design/composition changes do not happen often.

The 1988 D Jefferson nickel is interesting as this is the first year of Jefferson nickels that saw the sharpening of Jefferson’s hair and Monticello. These changes have led to most nickels after 1988 to feature what collectors call “Full Steps”, where all the steps found on Monticello are clean and separated.

Another interesting fact of the 1988 D Jefferson Nickel is that this coin was minted at the Denver Mint, rather than the much more common Philadelphia Mint. This is shown through the addition of a “D” right next to the date on the front of the coin. 663,771,000 examples of the 1988 D Jefferson nickel were minted in Denver.

Jefferson Nickel

Image Source Flickr user Jonathan Daroca

Grading the 1988 D Jefferson Nickel

Since there was a large amount of 1988 D Jefferson Nickels minted and the coin is relatively new, most examples found will be in a high grade. So unlike older Jefferson Nickels in the series, grading is normally focused on uncirculated coins.

Below are some guidelines on how to determine the grade of your 1988 D Jefferson Nickel. 1988 D Jefferson Nickels below uncirculated grades are generally only worth face value.

  • Uncirculated/MS 60: All surfaces are clean and little wear can be seen on any side of the coin. Details are strong and full mint luster is present.

  • Mint State 63: A coin that is sharper struck than MS-60 and has fewer contact marks as well. Some small contact marks can be present on Jefferson's cheek. Full mint Luster is present.

  • Mint State 65: Similar sharpness as MS-63, but fewer contact marks on Jefferson’s cheek. Some very slight abrasions on high parts of the coin. Very strong mint luster graces the coin.

  • Mint State 67: An almost flawless coin with a very strong strike on both the obverse and reverse. No contact marks. Luster is strong and appealing.

Because grading is more of an art than a science, these are just guidelines. Most 1988 D Jefferson Nickels will be in the MS-60 to MS-63 or lower category.

Another thing to look for on Jefferson Nickels in very high grades is the presence of Full Steps on Monticello. This designation could lead to a significant increase in the value of the coin.

Value of the 1988 D Jefferson Nickel

Since the 1988 D Jefferson Nickel is considered a modern coin that was minted in huge quantities, most examples will only be worth face value. Even those that are in Uncirculated condition are worth only a very small premium over face value.

A 1988 D Jefferson Nickel graded MS-65 by a third party grading company is estimated to be worth about $5. If MS-66 is achieved, the coin appreciates to a value of $11.

If a Full Step designation can be earned by a grading company, the prices are much higher compared to non-designated coins. In MS-65 with Full Step designation, the 1988 D Jefferson Nickel is valued at $27. An MS-66 example is worth $110.

Overall, the 1988 D Jefferson nickel can still be easily found in everyday pocket change, resulting in their depressed values. As Mint State examples begin to disappear in greater numbers, the values of remaining Mint State examples will rise. Until then, the only valuable 1988 D Jefferson Nickels are those that are in a very high grade and have Full Steps.

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