Since 1938, the US Mint has produced four nickel series, including the Jefferson nickels, which have been in production the longest. Depending on its condition and mint mark, a 1939 nickel can be worth anything.
This nickel is sought after by collectors because it typically belongs to valuable early coins. Coins from San Francisco and Denver are expensive because they are rare coins produced in fewer than 10 million pieces. Let’s dive in!
1939 Jefferson Nickel History
The 1939 Nickel is part of the nickel series, which also includes the following coins:
- Shield nickels
- Liberty Head nickels
- Buffalo nickels
Jefferson nickels are the series that have been minted the longest by the US Mint, dating back to 1938. However, coins made between 1938 and the 1960s are the most valuable and collectible.
Their design honors one of the Founding Fathers and the third President of the United States. It was, incidentally, the third coin in circulation with a real person on the obverse rather than a symbolic figure, such as an American Indian or Lady Liberty.
|1939 Jefferson Nickel|
|San Francisco||1939 S||6,630,000|
Features of 1939 Jefferson Nickel
In 1939, three mints produced 130,771,535 Jefferson nickels, but the vast bulk of regular strikes and proofs were produced in Philadelphia. Because of its low mintage, the Denver mint produced the most valuable coins.
The obverse of the 1939 Jefferson nickel
The third US President is featured in the center of sculptor Felix Oscar Schlag’s straightforward but striking Jefferson nickel obverse. His left-facing bust, modeled after Jean-Antoine Houdon’s 1789 sculpture, takes up most of the space. On the left, the words IN GOD WE TRUST are visible, and behind Jefferson’s back are LIBERTY and DATE.
The reverse of the 1939 Jefferson nickel
The Monticello mansion’s front view and its name are displayed on the elegant reverse. The word “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” is inscribed along the bottom rim, and “FIVE CENTS” is above it.
The balanced composition is finished by the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM, which extends from the top coin rim. Schlag’s initials are not found on early coins because they first appeared on this nickel in 1966.
Other features of the 1939 Jefferson nickel
The 1939 Nickel is a five-cent coin made of copper and nickel. It weighs 0.17637 ounces (5 g) and has a standard 0.83504-inch diameter, just like the other coins in the series (21.21 mm). This round piece has a plain edge and a thickness of 0.06890 inches (1.75 mm).
|1939 Jefferson Nickel|
|Face value||$0.05 (5 cents)|
|Compound||75% Copper – 25% Nickel|
|Coin weight||0.17637 ounces (5 g)|
|Coin diameter||0.83465 inches (21.2 mm)|
|Coin thickness||0.07677 inches (1.95 mm)|
1939 Jefferson Nickel Value Guides
The United States Mint issued two reverse-design Jefferson nickels in 1939:
- Reverse of 1938
- Reverse of 1940
The first design featured Monticello with flawed and curved step details, and the subsequent solution improved the design. Due to the limited production of these coins, the first variation is extremely rare. On the other hand, there were many pieces on the market with a perfectly straight set of steps and sharper details.
1939 No Mint mark Jefferson nickel
In 1939, the Philadelphia mint struck 120,615,000 Jefferson nickels, the highest mintage of the year. You can purchase these coins for $0.50 to $140, and they are equally priced for the 1938 and 1940 reverse varieties. Their value is typically based on how well they are preserved.
The pricey Full Steps coins range in value from $10 to $1,200, with the 1939 Full Steps 1940 reverse nickel in an MS 68 grade being the most expensive at an estimated $5,100. But in 2014, an auction saw one of these species sell for $23,500.
1939 proof Jefferson nickel
In addition to regular production, the Philadelphia mint made 12,535 proof nickels in 1939. Depending on the reverse, the price of 1939 reverse 1938 coins ranges from $20 to $5,000. On the other hand, high-ranking 1939 reverse 1940 pieces are significantly more expensive.
The most valuable coin in the series is the 1939 MS 68 1940 reverse Jefferson nickel, worth between $8,000 and $12,000. 1938 Reverse coins graded PR 68 set an auction record in 2010 when they sold for $18,400.
1939 D Jefferson nickel
The Denver mint produced the fewest Jefferson nickels in 1939, with a total production of 3,514,000 pieces. But that doesn’t make them rare or expensive; you can purchase one of these coins for anywhere between $5 and $300.
Only Full Steps versions can command a premium, such as the $22,000 1939 D reverse coin with an MS 68 rating. The coin bearing the D mint mark was the most expensive in the series in 2019, fetching $26,400.
1939 S Jefferson nickel
This year, the San Francisco mint made 6,630,000 Jefferson nickels. You should budget up to $5 for circulated examples in most cases. However, depending on the reverse style, those in the mint state range in price from $20 to $750.
The most expensive coins are Full Steps, but their cost greatly depends on the reverse. For instance, well-preserved 1938 pieces in an MS 67 grade go for $900, whereas 1940 reverse nickels of the same caliber cost $5,000.
1939 Jefferson Nickel Errors
There is one known error and one variation on the 1939 Jefferson nickel. Both coin types are generally expensive, highly collectible, and scarce.
Before the 1970s, when Full Steps pieces started to be sought after and become more popular, Jefferson nickels weren’t all that interesting to collectors. These coins depicted a set of five or six steps leading up to the Monticello building. These nickels can be determined by counting the lines between the steps. The coin has five Full Steps if the first four lines are complete. If there are five visible and uninterrupted lines, you’re looking at a six Full Steps nickel.
Surprisingly, Full Steps makes nickels worth ten or even twenty times more than they would otherwise. As a result, you should budget hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of dollars to buy one. Additionally, Full Steps nickels with rare errors always fetch a premium.
Only three years—1939 DDR, 1943 DDO, and 1945 DDR—in the Jefferson nickel series have double dies. This error occurred when a specific coin was struck twice on the die, leading to a double inscription or image on the coin’s surface.
The denomination and the Monticello Dome are particularly noticeable on the Philadelphia-produced 1939 Jefferson nickels, which have a better noticeable doubling than the other two. According to collectors, only 1,000 to 1,500 of these nickels are still in existence.
Because most 1939 DDO Nickels are of poor quality, well-preserved coins are expensive. Depending on their ranking, you may pay between $125 and $3,000 for one of these coins. However, Full Steps in the highest grades typically range from $1,200 to $7,800.
1939 Jefferson Nickel Grading
Uncirculated – Because it didn’t spend much time outside the coin bag, this nickel’s delicate texture and intact luster make it easy to identify. Jefferson’s profile is visible, with his highest points sharp and preserved. In other words, it seems to be completely new.
Extra fine – Without a close examination with a magnifying glass, you cannot detect any imperfections in the nickel surface. However, minor surface flaws have dulled its initial luster, and smooth areas first appeared on the highest points. The coin has a slightly different color and a noticeable flat hair area.
Fine – The surface of this nickel can show visible wear, especially in high areas. Jefferson’s hair is flattened in the middle, but the lines of his face are still visible. The line that divides the forehead from the hair is also partially absent.
Good – Because of extensive circulation, most Jefferson nickels available today are, regrettably, in this grade. Most high points have flattened, and the entire surface is heavily worn. Only a few details can be seen on Jefferson’s back head part and the area above his eye, and the lettering and date are typically readable.
|1939 Jefferson Nickel Value*|
|Quality||1939 r.1938||1939 double Monticello||1939 r.1940|
|Extra fine||$0.50||$125 to $162||$0.50|
|AU||$0.75 to $1||$150 to $263.25||$0.75 to $1.25|
|MS 60||$2||$250 to $290||$1.75|
|MS 61||$3||$300 to $345||$2|
|MS 62||$5||$425 to $488.75||$3|
|MS 63||$7||$650 to $747.50||$5.50|
|MS 64||$9||$900 to $1,035||$6|
|MS 65||$20||$1,250 to $1,438||$18|
|MS 66||$40||$1,600 to 1,920||$35|
|MS 67||$140||$2,400 to $3,000||$115|
FAQ about the 1939 Jefferson Nickel
What makes a 1939 Jefferson nickel rare?
The Full Steps and collectible double Monticello varieties of 1939 Jefferson nickels are the rarest. As a result, the rarest coin in the series is the 1939 FB double Monticello Jefferson nickel.
What is the 1939 No Mint mark Jefferson nickel price?
Depending on the level of preservation, the majority of 1939 Jefferson nickels are worth between $0.50 and $140. The cost of those with Full Steps ranges from $10 to $5,100 on average.
What is the most pricey Jefferson nickel?
Only 40 of the 1964 MS 65 SMS Jefferson nickels are still in existence, making them the rarest in the series and fetching $8,750 at auction. Even so, it is not the most priceless coin because a collector paid $1,150,000 for the unusual and somewhat enigmatic 1964 Jefferson nickel Mirror Brockage, which features an image of Jefferson on both sides.
SEE: 1978 Quarter Value
Due to extensive use, the majority of 1939 Nickels are in poor condition, which lowers their value on the current coin market. Rare items in excellent condition, however, can be quite expensive. Additionally, one of the most notable errors was produced this year, and such coins can be extremely valuable.