Coin Keeper's Blog

16 Aug 2022

The Jefferson Nickel

Coins | Coin Keeper

The journey of the Jefferson nickel started in 1937, even though this series could not begin until the next year (1938) because of a law forbidding a coin changing before the minimum of 25 years had passed since the first release of the design. The coin in use at that time was the buffalo nickel, and was in its twenty-fourth year of production. Even though many appreciated the older design, the mint discontinued it due to the fact that the date would easily rub off and become illegible.

Artists were informed that whoever made the best design for the nickel would win one thousand dollars worth of prize money. One of the entries submitted was by Felix Schlag, who was a German artist residing in Chicago. Though Schlag won the contest, there were edits that was needed to be done. Most noticeable of all, the reverse (back) of the coin was completely redesigned. Originally, it depicted a side view of the Monticello, and it was changed to the front view still seen on nickels today.

In 1938, buffalo nickels were only made in the Denver mint, and the Jefferson design was released late in the year. Because of this, there were very low mintages in that year of the Jefferson nickels at the Denver and San Francisco mints.

During World War II, nickel was needed in the war efforts. Because of this, the mint eliminated the nickel content, and instead used an alloy that was thirty-five percent silver, fifty-six percent copper, and nine percent magenese. The nickel was struck with this metal between the years 1942 and1945. A silver war time nickel can also be identified by a large mint mark above Monticello; the mint mark is small and placed next to the building when the nickels are not silver (except the more modern coins, which have them on the obverse under the date).

The Jefferson nickel underwent very few minor changes until 2004. In that year the obverse of the coin stayed the same, but two different reverse designs were stuck on the nickels. This was done to commemorate the bicentennial of when Luis and Clark explored the territory acquired from the Louisiana Purchase. The first reverse depicted a very similar design to the Jefferson Indian Peace medal. These medals were given to the Indian chiefs. The other design showed a keelboat, the one used in the exploration.

In 2005, the next year, another two designs were struck on the reverse, along with a new image of Thomas Jefferson on the front, where he looked right instead of left. The first image to be placed at the back of the coin in this year was of a shoreline with the words "Ocean in view! O! The joy!" The other design had an image of a bison. In 2006, the Westward Journey nickels were discontinued, and the old reverse was resumed. A new obverse was created in this year, and is the design still in use. Instead of gazing to either side, Jefferson looks straight out of the coin

Works Cited

Garrett, Jeff. A Guide Book of United States Coins 2021, 74th ed. Pelham, Whitman Publishing LLC, 2020

"All About Jefferson Nickels." Dave's Collectible Coins, https://davescollectiblecoins.com/all-about-jefferson-nickels/. 8/8/22

Reiter, Ed. "Retracing the Route of the Jefferson Nickel." Littleton Coin, https://www.littletoncoin.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Display%7C10001%7C29555%7C-1%7C%7CLearnNav%7CRetracing-the-Route-of-the-Jefferson-Nickel.html. 8/8/22

Julian, R. "The History of the Jefferson Nickel." Numismatic News, https://www.numismaticnews.net/collecting-101/the-jefferson-nickel. 8/8/22


Long Beard

Level 5

A personal favorite of the modern designs. Having the complete series from 1938 to date, I began another in toned. Shades of violet and blue preferably. Enjoyable read.


Level 6

Nice blog. The first series that I collected.


Level 6

Enjoyed your blog! Really well researched! Nice resource list as well. ; )

AC coin$

Level 6

Excellent study review on the US modern nickel. It has gon theu changes along time. Still honorable Jefferson remains a proud icon in it. Thanks for your well organized blog.


Level 6

Nice historic blog. Excellent bibliography. Come on everyone , doesn't the source list look better than nothing? Thanks for all your research. Nicely done.


Level 7

Its nice to read a great blog. Good research and information. I enjoyed very much. I have the Dansco album. I enjoy collecting them. Thanks again. Mike

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Very fine blog with a good accounting of the change from buffalos to Jeffs. Thank you!

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