Jefferson Nickel Overview
Bearing the portrait of the third US president, Thomas Jefferson, the Jefferson Nickel is the first modern nickel. Designed to replace the hard-to-mint Buffalo Nickel, the Jefferson Nickel first began production in 1938. Production still continues to this date, marking a 79-year run.
Designed by Felix Schlag, an artist and sculptor, the Jefferson Nickel was meant to be a simple design that honored Jefferson and his beloved home. Schlag won a contest against 100-plus other designers to secure his design as the new US Nickel.
On the obverse of the coin, a bust of President Jefferson is centered and facing right. The words “IN GOD WE TRUST” are found in the left field near the edge next to the bust of Jefferson. The date as well as the classic motto, “LIBERTY”, can be found along the right edge of the obverse.
The reverse is mainly comprised of Jefferson’s famous home, Monticello. Schlag chose to use the back of Monticello for his design. The words “FIVE CENTS” and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” are found below, while “E PLURIBUS UNUM” is found above.
If you would like to learn more about the Jefferson Nickel and other collectible US nickels, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Rare Nickels!
History of the 1939 Jefferson Nickel
1939 was the second year of production for the Jefferson Nickel. The majority of the coins were produced in Philadelphia. It is reported that 120,615,000 examples were produced at the Philadelphia mint in 1939.
A few problems were encountered in the minting process that resulted in a significant amount of 1939 Jefferson Nickels to exhibit doubling on the reverse. This doubling has become one of the most well known and sought after errors in the entire series.
Jefferson Nickels, excluding those minted in 1942-45, are made of a 75% copper and 25% nickel composition. Each also has a diameter of 21.2 mm and a weight of five grams.
1939 Doubled Die Reverse Jefferson Nickel
Perhaps the most well-known errors in the entire Jefferson Nickel Collection, the 1939 Doubled Die Reverse continues to draw interest from many collectors.
A Doubled Die Error occurs when the image from the hub used to create dies does not transfer correctly. This normally results in design elements, mainly legends, appearing to have doubled. Sometimes the doubling looks like the legends were shifted either to the left or right.
In this case, the doubling that occurs on the 1939 Jefferson Nickel can be found on the reverse. The mottos, “FIVE CENTS” and “MONTICELLO”, are the main elements that clearly show the doubling. Most examples of the 1939 Doubled Die Reverse do not need magnification to see the doubling.
Leading third party grader PCGS estimates that only 1,000-1,500 examples still exist, with most remaining in a grade below Very Fine. This makes finding a 1939 Jefferson Nickel that exhibits doubling on the reverse very rare.
If you suspect that your 1939 Jefferson Nickel does have doubling on the reverse, be sure to take it to a reputable coin dealer for a second opinion.
Valuing the 1939 Jefferson Nickel
Since only a little over 100 million 1939 Jefferson Nickels were minted, even prices in lower grades tend to be higher than other years.
Examples in Very Fine 20 condition have a value of $0.25, while Extremely Fine 40 examples see a price rise to $0.50. MS-60 condition coins retail for 2.00 while MS-65 examples see a huge price increase to $12.
1939 Doubled Die Reverse Jefferson Nickels see much higher values than non-doubled examples. In MS-60 condition, the average price is an astonishing $400! Values only continue to increase with MS-63 condition being worth $750 and MS-65 examples at $1,550. Lower grade examples see a higher price drop off.
As fewer Doubled Die Reverse examples are found, the prices will continue to rise. Even designations like Full Steps increase the price further. Look for the price of the 1939 Doubled Die Reverse Jefferson Nickel to continue to rise in the coming years.