Making a return on an investment is always satisfying. What’s more satisfying is seeing a 5 cent 1941 nickel turn into possible thousands.
How so? Well, as collectors have caught on, some 1941 nickels indeed are worth thousands of dollars rather than being worth face value. But don’t get so excited. Other scenarios would propose that some are worth no more than some pocket change.
So, what is the story behind the 1941 Nickel, and what are some of its trademarks today that make it so valuable – or not?
A Brief History of the 1941 Nickel
The United States Nickel celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2016. Surprisingly to some, the nickel’s value was three cents before 1865. Before that, it represented the penny. So why does the 1941 Nickel get so much attention?
The Jefferson Nickels are the ones that most want to collect, but they weren’t the first. The design changed several times before reaching the 1941 Nickel. This included the Buffalo Nickel design and the Hobo Nickels.
The Start of the Jefferson Nickels
By the 1930s, it was much more common to see portraits of past presidents occupy lower denomination coins. So after seeing the Buffalo Nickel design for 25 years, it was time for a change.
In 1938 we saw two significant nickel designs come out with Jefferson portraits.
The US Treasury Department started a competition for the nickel design that would feature the Thomas Jefferson portrait obverse of the coin and either the right side of Monticello or the Charlottesville, Virginia home on the reverse, along with the phrase, “E Pluribus Unum.”
A German American sculptor, Felix Schlag, would eventually win the competition, and not long after, production started in September of 1938. That design would remain intact until 2004.
The Pre-War Nickel Composition
Even though the design would remain the same until 2004, the composition would not. It’s partly what makes the 1941 pre-war nickel so unique.
Before the U.S. Mint started replacing the composition of the old nickel in 1942, it was made up of 25% nickel and 75% copper.
The wartime nickel changed quickly 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese.
Stange how they got rid of nickel. Why?
Nickel was used in artillery production for ammunition during the war. Aside from the nickel composition, the war nickels had large Mint marks above the Monticello as opposed to any of the smaller ones.
This was one of the differences that could easily distinguish between a pre-war and a during-war nickel in the Jefferson series. It’s also important to note that these nickels were mass-produced at the start of the war, with 100 million circulated.
What Is the Value of a 1941 Jefferson Nickel?
It’s important to distinguish the nickels from one another because they can have quite a range of values. Some may be no more than 7-10 cents, while others, as noted, have auctioned over $5,000, believe it or not.
Here’s how to differentiate between nickels and their potential value as collectible coins.
Three U.S. Mint Locations
These old coins were minted in three separate locations across the U.S. For this reason, we will see variations of the nickel.
Any nickels from the San Francisco Mint would bear an S label on the coin. Any nickels from the Denver Mint would have a D on the design.
Interestingly enough, there were nickels also made at the Philadelphia Mint, but instead of a P, there was simply no mint mark on the coin’s reverse side.
Well, that was until the 1970s, when they made a sudden change. These, however, are not from the 1941 era that coin collectors value.
1941-S Jefferson Nickel
So what’s the value of a 1941-S nickel, and is it different than the value of a 1941-D nickel?
When you come across 1941 nickels, take a look at the reverse of the coins. In fine tiny print, you will see an “S” marked on the right side of the coin.
This is how you know you have a 1941-S. In terms of its value, the 1941-S nickel in terrible condition has been said to go around for 55 cents. But before you go using it for something, consider this information.
The better the condition of the coin, the more you will get for it. When it concerns the 1941-S Jefferson nickel, if it is in excellent condition, you are more likely looking at a price around $150.
1941-D Jefferson Nickel
1941-D Jefferson nickels in heavy circulation and worn may be valued around 10 to 20 cents. If it is in good condition, you could find yourself trading it in for $4 to $10. The record price? $11,400.
At the time of production, roughly 54,432,000 had been minted. This made it clear that the 1941-S and 1941-D were produced much less than the Philly nickel.
The Philadelphia Mint
It may seem discouraging, but the nickels produced out of Philadelphia are a lot less of a rare coin. Remember that if it has a P on it, it’s not from the era you are looking for. Or worse, it could mean that it is a complete fake.
For some reason, these mintless coins were produced at a much higher number than their counterparts.
Two hundred million of these coins were produced, putting them on the lowest spectrum of coin collectors’ radar. These should not be confused with The Philadelphia Proofs, which can be worth quite a bit.
The 1941 Proof Nickel is valued higher than any of the coins we just talked about. These nickels were said to be produced just for coin collectors, and because of that, The United States Mint in Philly only made 18,720 proofs.
This is the pre-world war rare coin collectors reference to. In OK condition, you can make $50 to $100. The best conditions have gone for $18,800. Now that’s a return on investment!
Most Valuable 1941 Nickels
1941-S Jefferson Nickel $8,900
1941-D Jefferson Nickel $11,400
1941 – No Mint Jefferson Nickel $5,200
1941 Proof Jefferson Nickels $18,800
1941 Nickel Condition
Now that we understand some of the subtle differences between the nickels, it’s essential to understand what good and mint conditions are.
Coin dealers or collectors have a set of standards that could make or break your value. Mint State Grade is where most of the value sits.
Mint State Grade
Mint State Grade is the best condition possible to offer the best bang for your buck. Or, in this situation, coin. Because when the portrait was designed, the nickel saw a lot of contouring done to the face, both high and low on the coin.
The more you can see this beautiful sketching, the better the condition is and the more likely it is in Mint State Grade.
There are two places where you can look for some wear and tear to determine the condition. This is above the eyebrows and the ear in the portrait.
When you start to see some flatness and texture loss in these two areas, the condition will move to Extremely Fine Grade. This is still promising in value.
Fine Grade is where you start to lose all the fine lines designed in Jefferson’s hair, eye (eyebrow), and ear. You can still see the contour and outline, but more blending occurs here.
Good grade is not as good as one would think. It’s the lowest of scales and is when most of the lines have blurred. It’s considered a heavily worn condition with no real distinction between the hair and the face.
1941 Nickel Errors
From the slightest die gouge to a distorted hub doubling and off-center strike, there are plenty of 1941 nickel error coins to be looking for.
1941 Nickels with Repunched Mintmarks
A few 1941 nickels were individually punched by hand, leading to mistakes by the workers at the mint. Common mistakes were upside down and sideways punched letters that needed repunched.
After the manual punches, there were obvious double, triple, or even quadrupling of a few mintmarks.
1941 Doubled Die Nickels
Of all the 1941 error nickels, the doubled die is the most common. There’s a minor doubling of the letters on the reverse of the coins.
1941 Nickels with Die Cuds
Cracked dies that strike planchets will leave raised lines on coins. Any cracked die that strikes a coin at the rim is called a die cud. These error strike nickels can be valued at $100 – $200.
Get a Few Opinions From the Experts
It can be challenging to examine the worth of a 1941 Jefferson nickel. It can be even slightly difficult for some of us to tell all the nickels apart. That’s why getting a second opinion for someone to examine the worth never hurts.
Keep in mind that regardless of what coin you have, the condition will always be a major factor in Jefferson nickel values.
Certain nickels will have rank over others, such as the 1941 Proof. On the opposite spectrum, we have the overly-produced Philedphia Mint with no mint marking at all.
The 1941-S and the 1941-D have close ties regarding who is valued more and likely comes back again to the condition.
No matter where your coin falls, you are likely to get a good exchange, even if it is only a few more cents.
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