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Jefferson Nickel (1938-Date)

Since it was introduced in the United States in 1983, the Jefferson Nickel has been the longest running five cent denomination series. It was struck by the United States Mint to replace the Buffalo nickel.  The coin’s continuity may have been interrupted briefly by the emergency of the Second World War but is still minted to this day.

Jefferson Nickel, as the name suggests, features the portrait of the 3rd President of the United States Thomas Jefferson on the obverse and the Monticello on the reverse.  The original design was made by Felix O. Schlag, with a portrait of the former President facing left and with the inscriptions “In God We Trust” and “Liberty”, and the date. On the reverse side is the Monticello, the historic home of Thomas Jefferson. Along with it are the inscriptions Monticello, United States of America, E Pluribus Unum, and Five Cents.  For more than 6 decades, Schlag’s design remained unchanged.jefferson nickel

From 1938 onward, the Jefferson Nickel coins were minted at Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. Coins struck in Philadelphia did not have a mintmark until 1980, but those minted in Denver and San Francisco were marked D and S, respectively.  The mintmarks appeared in different areas of the coin.  From 1938 to 1964, the mintmark was placed to the right of Monticello.

Due to a nationwide coin shortage, the use of mintmarks were suspended. It was restored in 1968 and are now placed beneath the date, just to the right of the President’s peruke.  After 1954, coining operations in the San Francisco Mint were suspended but the S-marked Jefferson Nickel coins were again made for circulation from 1968 to 1971.

At the start of 1971 to the present, only proof examples of the Jefferson Nickel are struck in San Francisco for collectors.  It was from 2004 to 2006 that a series of design changes took place which was done to commemorate the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase and the expedition of Lewis and Clark into America’s interior.  Over the course of 3 years, four variants of the Jefferson Nickel coins were minted from 2004 to 2005. All were short-lived.

The Westward Journey Nickel featured 4 different designs on the reverse side before it reverted back to the original design which was the image of the Monticello.  The first one is a design adapted by mint sculptor Norman Nemeth from the Indian Peace medals of the Jefferson and later administrations. It bore the words LOUISIANA PURCHASE along with a Soldier, a Native American, and a crossed tomahawk and peace pipe above them.  The second one bore the words LEWIS & CLARK and featured the keel boat that was used in the expedition.  Two new portraits of Jefferson were featured on the obverse. The second portrait that debuted in 2006 stuck and is used to this day. It was designed by Jamie Franki and features a facing view of the great statesman offset to the left. It was sculpted by a Mint’s staff Donna Weaver.

Because of the lengthy duration of the Jefferson Nickel coins, earlier dates of the series can be found in circulation. Beginning collectors will find them an approachable one. What is challenging for advanced collectors is the assembly of a set of coins in gem condition and well defined strikes.

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