Jefferson Nickel – The History, Facts & Key Dates

Photo of author
Written By Natasha Jones
I'm Natasha Jones, an avid collector of coins, stamps, and paper money. My passion drives me to seek unique finds, from antique shops to international exchanges. I enjoy connecting with fellow collectors through forums and meet-ups, sharing discoveries and insights. Collecting, for me, is about preserving history and building a community around this shared interest.

The Jefferson Nickel was the first coin the United States Mint issued to feature a portrait of a former President.

It was introduced in 1938, and its design has stayed the same.

In this article, we’ll discuss a little bit of its history and some of the rarities and varieties of this coin!

History of the Jefferson Nickel


The history of the Jefferson nickel dates back to 1938, when it was first minted at the Philadelphia Mint.

The coin was designed by Felix Schlag and featured a portrait of Thomas Jefferson on its obverse (front).

The reverse side of the coin has an image of Monticello, Jefferson’s home in Virginia, which he designed himself.

Jefferson Nickel Design

The Jefferson Nickel is one of the most widely collected coins in history.

It was designed by Felix Schlag, who also designed the Buffalo Nickel, the Lincoln Memorial Cent, and many others.

The obverse design features a profile portrait of Thomas Jefferson, former President of the United States.

At the same time, there are two versions of the reverse: one with Monticello and one without it.

The words “Liberty” and “In God We Trust” are inscribed on both sides of this coin.

On either side are five stars representing America’s 50 states when introduced in 1938 but have since been reduced to four due to Hawaii being added as a state in 1959 (the last year for which Jefferson nickels were minted).

Jefferson Nickel Key Dates

  • 1938-S – This is the first year of the Jefferson Nickel. It was minted from 1938 to 1942 and again from 1946 to 1964.
  • 1939-D – This is the second year of the Jefferson Nickel. It was minted from 1939 to 1943 and again from 1946 to 1964.
  • 1940-D – This is the third year of the Jefferson Nickel. It was minted from 1940 to 1943 and again from 1946 to 1964.
  • 1941-D – This is the fourth year of the Jefferson Nickel. It was minted from 1941 to 1943 only due to World War II metal shortages (no coins could be made), but then it was reissued in 1945 until about 1952 or 1953 (the exact date isn’t known). The coin’s value has increased significantly over time because people believe they have something rare in their possession; however, it may be worth less than you think if you don’t know exactly when yours was made!

Jefferson Nickel Varieties

The Jefferson nickel is one of the most common coins in circulation. As such, it has been minted in many different years and varieties. Here are some of the most notable ones:



The first year that the design was used. It’s a key date coin because only 30,000 were made.

So if you find one in your pocket change, consider yourself lucky!



Another extremely rare coin (just over 23 million were made), but this time due to WWII production issues rather than an intentional decision by the Mint.

1942 was never circulated because all other nickels from 1941 onward have mint marks above Monticello on the reverse side instead of below it like this one does due to wartime metal shortages caused by WWII production needs elsewhere.



A very famous variety because less than 1 million were produced compared with about 7 million combined for every other year between 1938 and 1945!



In 1945 alone, there were two different varieties depending on whether or not there was a double die error where part of Monticello appears doubled up on itself when looking at certain angles (this happens when dies aren’t correctly aligned).

Jefferson Nickel Rarities

1938-S (Rare)

Collectors consider this a rare coin and can be worth thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, there were just 5,312 produced in the San Francisco mint, so it isn’t easy to find one for sale today.

The critical date features Lady Liberty on the front of the nickel and Thomas Jefferson on the back.

It’s always been worth more than regular nickels due to its low mintage.

However, prices have skyrocketed recently due to scarcity and demand from collectors worldwide–even though they’re still legal tender in America!

1938-D (Very Scarce)

The Denver mint produced 362,000 pieces of this coin in 1938.

However, only 2 or 3 thousand minted with a “D” stamped after them instead of an “S” like usual.

So finding one should be easy! Also, this coin features an eagle on its reverse side instead of Monticello and other minor changes, like stars surrounding Monticello instead of just below him (like all other years).

Before you go…

The Jefferson nickel has been a popular coin for most of its history, and it’s no wonder why. These coins have a rich backstory that shows their connection with American history and culture. There are also several key dates in the series that collectors should know about. The Jefferson nickel is one of America’s most iconic coins, so we hope you enjoyed learning more about them!

Check out my next article: “Jefferson Nickel Coin Errors.”

Related Articles:

Leave a Comment