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1961 Nickel Value Guides (Rare Errors, “D” & No Mint Mark)

1961 Nickel Value Guides (Rare Errors, “D” & No Mint Mark)

Do you have a 1961 nickel in your coin collection? If so, you might be curious to learn more about it!

Indeed, if you are wondering about the 1961 nickel value, you have come to the right place. In this blog post, we will take a deep dive into the history and features of this classic coin, as well as its value in various conditions. We will also take a look at some rare and valuable 1961 nickels.

So if you’re curious about what your five cent piece is worth, keep reading! You will not want to miss this.

1961 Nickel Value Chart

Mint Mark Good Fine Extremely Fine Uncirculated
1961 “No Mint Mark” Nickel / / / $0.28-$23
1961 “D” Nickel / / / $0.28-$23
1961 “No Mint Mark” Nickel (Proof) / / / $3.30

History of the 1961 Nickel

First, before we do anything else, let’s take a look at some background information on the 1961 nickel. The United States Mint first released this coin in 1961, and it features a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of the United States on the obverse (front) side, as well as an image of Monticello, Jefferson’s Virginia homestead, on the reverse (back) side. This design was introduced in 1938 and remained unchanged for close to 70 years, finally changing to something new after 2003.

The image was originally created by an engraver named Felix Schlag, a German immigrant who moved to the United States of America with his wife in 1929. Already a famous engraver and sculptor in Europe, Felix Schlag knew he had to try his hand at winning a contest in 1938 for a new image for the nickel. It had previously been the famous buffalo nickel, but now the US Mint wanted to create something with Thomas Jefferson to commemorate his 200th birthday.

He joined 390 other contestants and ended up winning the design for the new nickel, eventually known as the Jefferson nickel. He was paid $1000 for his work, and the coin has since become a staple in numismatics’ collections and in American history.

Other things that were happening in 1961 as this nickel was minted include the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, the birth of future President Barack Obama, and the first human entering into space (Yuri Gagarin from the Soviet Union). It was quite the eventful year!

Features of the 1961 Nickel

Now that we have some background information out of the way, let’s take a closer look at what makes the 1961 nickel special.

The Obverse of the 1961 Nickel

First, the most obvious feature of this five cent piece is its obverse side (the front side), which features a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, facing left. Just behind Jefferson’s head on the right side of the coin, you can see the word “LIBERTY” in all capital letters. Just below that is the date, “1961”  each of these inscriptions follow the curve of the coin’s edge.

To the left of Jefferson is a phrase that reads “IN GOD WE TRUST”, which also follows the curve of the coin’s edge. This phrase is a staple of American coinage. It was added to coins in the United States of America starting in 1864, during the American Civil War, and honors the nation’s religious heritage that brought the nation into being.

The Reverse of the 1961 Nickel

The Reverse of the 1961 Nickel

Credit: Online Coin Club

Now let’s take a look at what is on the reverse side (the back side) of this nickel. In the very center of the design, you will find a very classical image of Monticello. In case you didn’t know this already, Monticello was Thomas Jefferson’s gorgeous Virginia homestead, where he spent a lot of his later years.

Just below the building is the word “MONTICELLO,” just so no one gets confused. Directly below this is the denomination of the coin, reading “FIVE CENTS.” And arching along the bottom center of the reverse side is the phrase, “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”

At the very top of this coin, there is an inscription with the United States’ motto, “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” This phrase means “Out of Many, One,” which strongly fits the American vision of multiple states yet one nation.

Other Features of the 1961 Nickel

Now that we have covered the obverse and reverse sides of this coin, let’s take a look at other features that are unique to the American nickel – including its metal composition, its mint marks (and US Mint locations), and lastly, the 1961 nickel’s size and weight.

Metal Composition

One feature of the United States nickel is its metal composition. The 1961 nickel, like all other US nickels minted since 1866, was made with a mixture of 75% copper and 25% nickel (which is also referred to as “cupronickel”). The nickel metal is what gives the nickel coin not only its name but also its silvery gray color.

This metal composition makes it one of the few coins in circulation that contain any amount of nickel whatsoever.

Mint Marks

Take a look at your 1961 nickel – if you look closely at the reverse side, to the right of Monticello, you should be able to see a small letter which represents which US Mint location issued your coin. This will be either a “D” for the US Mint location in Denver or an “S” to signify the US Mint location in San Francisco. If there is no mint mark at all, it means that your coin was minted at the US Mint location in Philadelphia.

Size and Weight

Finally, the 1961 nickel has a diameter of 21.21 millimeters and a thickness of 1.95 millimeters. It also weighs 5 grams, which is easy to remember as it matches the face value of the coin.

Value of the 1961 Nickel

Now that we have taken a look at what makes this coin special, let’s discuss its value! The condition of your 1961 nickel will determine how valuable it is; coins with no wear or very minimal wear will be more rare, and therefore worth more money – while coins that are heavily worn or damaged may be worth less.

The official grading system used by professional numismatists (coin collectors) assigns grades based on various factors such as strike quality, surface texture, toning patterns, and other characteristics found on coins. Grades range from Poor (P 1) to Uncirculated (MS 70). In this article, we will focus on the condition grades of Good, Fine, Extremely Fine, and Uncirculated.

Additionally, the value of a 1961 nickel will depend on its United States Mint location. Nickels from 1961 were minted in the Philadelphia mint as well as the Denver mint.

As far as the grading conditions go, a Good coin will show a lot of wear, with some minor details still visible on both the obverse and reverse sides. Coins that have been damaged through cleaning, mishandling, or other means will usually receive this grade.

A coin in Fine condition will have only minimal wear, with some details still visible on the obverse and reverse sides. An Extremely Fine coin will contain only minor wear and retain most of its original details. And lastly, an Uncirculated coin has not been circulated, so it will appear almost perfect with all of its original details intact.

Let’s look at the value of each 1961 nickel, separated by its US Mint location.

1961 “No Mint Mark” Nickel

Nickels minted in Philadelphia in 1961 will not feature a mint mark, so the best way to identify these coins is in that vein: no mint mark means it was minted in Philadelphia.

In 1961, the Philadelphia mint produced 76,668,244 nickels, which is quite a few. This amount affects the value of the coin.

The value of a Philadelphia-minted 1961 nickel starts at face value in Good condition, which of course is five cents. That amount stays the same for 1961 nickels in Fine condition. It even stays at face value for coins in Extremely Good condition.

However, if you have a 1961 nickel that has an Uncirculated grade, it is generally worth between twenty-eight cents and $23. (However, unless you have a pristine nickel with a cool error on it, you may not want to get it professionally graded, as the cost of grading it might equal out the amount the nickel is even worth.)

1961 “D” Nickel

1961 "D" Nickel

Credit: USA Coin Book

For the 1961 nickels minted in Denver, you should be able to easily spot a “D” located on the reverse side of the coin, to the right of Monticello. Nickels with this mark were made in much larger numbers than those without it (about 229,342,760 nickels that year!), and as such, they are not worth any more money that their Philadelphia counterpart – usually worth face value (five cents) and up to twenty-eight cents to $23 for an Uncirculated example.

1961 “Proof” Nickel

1961 "Proof" Nickel

Credit: PCGS

It is also possible to find 1961 nickels that were made as Proofs. Proof coins are cool, mirror-like minted coins with a different finish, usually a very shiny one. These coins were not meant for circulation and are generally worth more than the regular issue nickels.

American nickels from 1961 are currently worth about $3.30.

1961 Nickel Error Coins

In addition to the standard 1961 nickel coins, there were also some errors made during production. This could include but are not limited to missing steps on Monticello, off-center strikes, double die, and broad strike.

Errors are often considered very valuable and can be worth hundreds of dollars or more in extreme cases. If you think you have a rare coin, it is always best to get it graded and authenticated by a professional.

Error coins such as these are fairly rare but do exist – so if you come across one, make sure to check its value before spending it!

Let’s check out some neat 1961 nickel error coins that have surfaced and have sold at auction.

1961 Nickel with Ragged Clipped Planchet Error

1961 Nickel with Ragged Clipped Planchet Error

Credit: eBay

This 1961 nickel has a very unusual error on it – a ragged clipped planchet. This happens when the blank metal disc is cut or breaks unevenly, creating an irregular shape and leaving parts of the edge of the coin unfinished. This particular example sold for around $30 at auction.

1961 Nickel with Full Steps Variety

This situation isn’t exactly an error – it’s simply that there is a much sharper stamping of the image, meaning that the details are much more visible and deeper than usual, especially on Monticello. If you can clearly see five or six steps, then your nickel is worth more than the average.

This is especially true with the 1961 “D” nickel. It is extremely rare to find nickels minted at the Denver mint in 1961 that have full steps. Only a handful of them have ever been discovered.

One such 1961 “D” nickel with full steps (and in pristine condition) sold at auction for a very impressive $6,000!

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you know what the 1961 nickel value is, let’s answer some common questions about this particular year of American coinage.

How is the Original Nickel Design Different From the Modern Nickel Design?

The original nickel design, which started in 1938 and ended in the 2000’s, is known as the Jefferson Nickel.  As we’ve mentioned, it features a portrait of Thomas Jefferson on the obverse side, and his Virginia home Monticello on the reverse side. Then in 2004 and 2005, there were a series of nickels known as the Westward Journey nickels and featured different, very “American” designs.

The modern nickel design, which began in 2006, again shows Monticello on the back, but on the front, Thomas Jefferson is now facing forward.

Can I Find 1961 Nickels in Circulation?

While it is possible to find 1961 nickels in circulation, the odds of finding one are low since so many nickels have been made over the years. It is much more likely to come across one in a coin collection, at a coin dealer’s shop, or at an online auction site such as eBay.

Conclusion

The 1961 nickel is a great coin, no matter which US Mint location it came from. Coins that have been preserved in Good condition or better are rare and very valuable.

While most 1961 nickels will only be worth face value, some pieces may be worth significantly more depending on their condition and if they possess any errors or anomalies. So keep an eye out – you never know when you might stumble upon a rare 1961 nickel!

Do you have a 1961 nickel in your collection? Have you ever found one while searching through change? Share your stories with us in the comments!