Jefferson Nickel Overview
First minted in 1938, the Jefferson Nickel was intended to commemorate US President and Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson. Designer Felix Schlag chose a simple design that revolved around Jefferson and his life. Still produced today, the Jefferson Nickel is one of the longest-running nickel series.
Schlag chose to follow the design elements of previous coins and used a left-facing bust of President Jefferson. The motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST”, can be found in the left field of the obverse. In the right field is the word “LIBERTY” and the date that the coin was minted.
On the reverse, a rendition of Jefferson's home, Monticello, is centered. The mottos, “E PLURIBUS UNUM” and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”, can be found centered above and below respectively. “MONTICELLO” and the denomination “FIVE CENTS” can be found directly below Schlag’s depiction of Monticello.
All Jefferson nickels, except for those minted between 1942 and 1945, are made of a 75% copper and 25% nickel composition. Each also has a weight of 5.0 grams and diameter of 21.21mm. Reeding is not present on the edge of the coin.
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 1948 Jefferson Nickel
After the end of World War 2, a general increase in production of nickels was completed to help add more currency to circulation. This increase led to 89,348,000 examples of 1948 Jefferson Nickels being produced in Philadelphia. 1948 would be the last year prior to 1954 that the US Mint made over 144 million nickels combined from the three main mints.
Unlike most Jefferson Nickels from the 1950s and 60s that had weak or soft strikes, the 1948 Jefferson Nickel tended to have a very average or above average strike quality. This has resulted in a relatively large number receiving the Full Steps designation by third party graders.
Higher-grade examples for the 1948 Jefferson Nickels are also much more common than examples dated before 1942.
Grading Higher Grade Jefferson Nickel
Since there are a large amount of 1948 nickels that have survived to the point that they can even be found in circulation, most lower-grade examples are only worth face value.
Higher-grade examples can command higher premiums and when grades above MS-65 are achieved, the price rises very quickly. Here are some guidelines for grading coins that are above Extremely Fine 45 condition.
About Uncirculated 50 - Very light wear that drops the coin from mint state to About Uncirculated. Mint luster is impaired but is still present.
Mint State 60 - No traces of wear, but some small contact marks from the minting process may be visible. Full mint luster is present.
Mint State 63 - Almost no contact marks in important or distracting areas. Mint luster may be brighter or more even.
Mint State 65 - Coin is well struck and has almost no contact marks. If contact marks are present, they are in non-distracting areas. Luster is above average for Uncirculated.
Mint State 67 - No more than one hairline contact mark in a non-distracting area. Luster is brilliant. Centering is close to perfect and strike is very strong.
Most 1948 Jefferson Nickels will most likely be in a grade under About Uncirculated 50. Those that are at or above MS-65 condition should be examined and determined if they are worth sending to a third party grader to be encapsulated.
Those coins that grade MS-63 or higher should be checked for the presence of Full Steps on the base of Monticello. The Full Step designation brings much more money for some Jefferson Nickels as it is a sign of a good strong strike.
Value of the 1948 Jefferson Nickel
As alluded to earlier, most 1948 Jefferson Nickels are not worth much more than face value and can still be found in circulation. With the huge numbers minted in 1948, the amount that has survived in a high grade is very large.
1948 Jefferson Nickels that are in About Uncirculated 50 are only valued somewhere near $0.25. Mint State 60 condition sees a small jump to $1.02 and MS-63 examples see a larger increase to $6 a piece.
Coins graded MS-65 are much harder to find and command a larger premium over all other grades below it. PCGS gives a retail value of $27 for the 276 examples that have been graded. Only one coin has been graded at MS-67 condition by PCGS and is valued at $1,650.
A 1948 Jefferson Nickel with a Full Step designation also makes a big difference in price. An MS-65 example with Full Step designation has a value of $185, which is an increase of $158 over a non-designation example.