The Jefferson nickel is one of the most famous US Mint coins. This piece, known for the bust of the third American President Jefferson on the obverse, has been in circulation for over 80 years. Although collectors are more interested in specimens from an earlier period, all sets of this coin are collectible.
As expected, every collector checks the offered coin value before buying, and the 1979 nickel value is affected by the mint mark and rating. Finally, the existing San Francisco mint nickel variations and errors significantly affect these coins’ prices.
1979 Jefferson nickel Value
|Condition||1979 No Mint mark nickel||1979 D nickel||1979 S nickel Type 1||1979 S nickel Type 2|
*by USA Coin Book
History of the 1979 Jefferson Nickel
The Buffalo nickel reached the mandatory 25 years of minting in 1938. Therefore, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt got a chance to change the coin without the act of Congress.
He grabbed this opportunity to replace the problematic design of the previous American coinage. As a great admirer of the 3rd President of the US, Thomas Jefferson, he decided to pay tribute to him by approving the new nickel look.
Early that year, the US Mint opened a competition for a new nickel design, which was an uncommon practice at the time. Competitors had two conditions, including an obligatory portrait of Jefferson on the obverse and his Monticello mansion on the reverse.
1979 Jefferson nickel
|Philadelphia||1979 No Mint mark nickel||463,188,000|
|Denver||1979 D nickel||325,867,672|
|San Francisco||1979 S proof nickel||3,677,175|
The US Mint set the prize of $1,000 for the winner. Despite receiving almost 400 creative solutions, the commission announced the winner to be Felix Schlag. There were no objections to the obverse design depicting Jefferson’s bust, but most members were dissatisfied with the reverse look.
Therefore, the designer had to change the perspective of the Monticello mansion. The first variation showed Monticello from the side view, while the judges preferred the front. He also had to change the lettering before the design approval.
Interestingly, Schlag avoided including his initials in the initial design, and the US Mint added them after 1966. You can find letters FS under Jefferson’s bust.
Although the design remained the same for eight decades, the nickel’s composition had multiple variations. During WWII, the military industry had an increased need for nickel, leading the US Mint to find an alternative for these coins’ minting.
They changed the nickel’s composition to copper and silver with a small percentage of manganese. These coins became known as Wartime nickels and were in production from 1942 to 1946.
Features of the 1979 Jefferson Nickel
The Jefferson nickel mostly stayed the same over the years, except when it came to commemorative coins. The obverse has featured former President Thomas Jefferson from the beginning of production.
The reverse depicted his home, Monticello, from the start, while the mint mark and designer’s initials changed their positions at some point.
The obverse of the 1979 Jefferson nickel
On the coin obverse, you can see the third US President. His bust is in the center, facing left. He wore clothing modern at the time, including the characteristic high collar on his coat, while his hair was in the time-appropriate style.
In front of the portrait, along the left rim, is the famous phrase, IN GOD WE TRUST. The word LIBERTY and the minting year are behind the President’s bust. They go along the right rim, with a star separating them.
The reverse of the 1979 Jefferson nickel
The Monticello building is the first thing you can notice when looking at the coin reverse. The President designed this monumental building, drawing inspiration from the Italian Renaissance. Even the name Monticello came from Italian.
The building has the central position, while just below its stairs is the word MONTICELLO. On the coin’s upper rim is the phrase E PLURIBUS UNUM. The inscription, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, goes along the edge, from one building’s corner to the other. Above it is the denomination FIVE CENTS.
1979 Jefferson nickel
|Face value||5 cents ($0.05)|
|Compound||75% copper, while the rest is nickel|
|Coin diameter||0.8348 inches (21.2 mm)|
|Coin weight||0.1764 ounces (5 g)|
|Coin thickness||0.0768 inches (1.95 mm)|
The 1979 Jefferson nickel other features
The 1979 Jefferson nickel is a round coin with a plain edge and contains 75% copper and the rest nickel. A weight of 0.1764 ounces (5 g) is typical for this coin. Its thickness is 0.0768 inches (1.95 mm), while the diameter is the standard 0.8348 inches (21.2 mm).
1979 Jefferson Nickel Value Guides
In 1979, the US Mint minted 792,732,847 nickels in three different mints. The San Francisco mint only released proofs in two different types.
1979 No Mint mark Jefferson nickel Value
With 463,188,000 minted coins, the Philadelphia mint had the largest circulation in 1979. Typically for this mint, none of the nickels have the mint mark.
Such a high circulation enabled these nickels’ easy availability on the coin market nowadays and thus had a significant impact on their current value. Coins in average condition can cost only five cents, while specimens in the mint state are slightly more than three dollars.
Expectedly, these pieces’ prices at auctions are often higher. The 1979 MS 66 Jefferson nickel (FS) reached as much as $2,115 during the 2016 auction. The specimen in an MS 63 grade without Full Steps sold for $1,898 at auction in 2003.
1979 D Jefferson nickel Value
The Denver mint had the second-largest mintage of 1979 Jefferson nickels. You can find the letter D on 325,867,672 specimens, and their abundance adversely affects their current value.
You can buy an average well-preserved coin for five cents, which is its face value. The price of specimens in the uncirculated condition is not high either, and you can buy them for an affordable four and a half dollars.
On the other hand, auction specimens require somewhat higher investments. For instance, the 1979 D MS 67 nickel (FS) reached an extraordinary $4,500 on eBay in 2022. One collector bought the coin with the same rating but without Full Steps for just $345 at auction in 2008.
1979 S proof Jefferson nickel Value
In 1979, the San Francisco mint minted only proof Jefferson nickels, and you can recognize them by the S mark on the obverse. The mint struck 3,677,175 nickels, and collectors immediately recognized two types:
- Type 1 (filled S)
- Type 2 (clear S)
No one precisely knows how many pieces of Type 1 and Type 2 are there, but clear S specimens are known to be scarcer than coins with the filled letter S.
1979 S Jefferson nickel (proof) prices
|Condition||DCAM 1979 S nickel Type 1||DCAM 1979 S nickel Type 2|
The 1979 S Jefferson nickel value varies by the coin type and reflection on the surface. So, you should pay from $0.25 to $160 for the 1979 S DCAM nickel Type 1, depending on its condition, while specimens Type 2 are a bit more expensive. Most cost from $0.25 to $200.
Even the auction records differ for those coin types. One collector sold the 1979 S PR 70 nickel Type 2 with deep cameo contrast for a remarkable $2,530. On the other hand, a coin Type 1 with the same grade sold at auction in 2013 for almost half the money, $1,763.
1979 Jefferson Nickel Errors and Varieties
Despite the appreciable effort that the US Mint puts in, not every coin is perfectly made, including the 1979 Jefferson nickels. Even a tiny problem in the minting process can lead to specimens with an error.
Jefferson nickels are known for a weak die strike, so the steps at the entrance to Monticello are rarely complete. Full Steps is a gradation mark used for coins with five or six entirely visible steps.
1979 Full Steps Jefferson nickel prices
|Condition||1979 No mint mark nickel||1979 D nickel|
Coins with this quality have a significant value on the coin market, ranging from $60 to $900. Their prices mainly depend on the mint mark and condition, but they often reach higher sums at auctions.
For instance, one collector bought the 1979 D MS 67 FS nickel on eBay for $4,500. On the other hand, a specimen from Philadelphia in an MS 66 grade with FS was paid $2,115.
This error typically occurs when a die strikes a misplaced planchet, resulting in a missing design part. You can see an empty surface in the shape of a crescent along the opposite rim, plus the coin sometimes loses its shape during minting.
The error can be small when only 2% to 3% of the design is missing, but such specimens rarely bring additional value. The most valuable pieces are those with 50% or 60% off-center, with the visible minting date and the mark.
These errors occur when a circular die surrounding a bottom die break. Since there is no collar to prevent the metal blank from expanding, the coin spreads and distorts outwards.
This damage occurs when two dies hit each other without a planchet placed between them. Since the impact pressure is high, the design parts of one die can be impressed on another. Coins struck with such dies have a weird design surface.
This error typically occurs when the struck coin doesn’t fall out of the tray, and a new planchet falls between it and the die.
Then, the die hits the new planchet leaving the image on one side, while the other side of the planchet presses the previously stuck coin. Thus, the stuck coin design appears on that side. Most of these coins are off-center, but collectors prefer fully overlapping ones.
Nickel struck on a penny planchet
From time to time, blank plates of previously minted nickels can remain in the containers. When used for the wrong coins, the result is an error. Collectors know that some 1979 nickels struck on the penny planchet still exist.
FAQ about the 1979 Jefferson nickel
What makes 1979 nickels rare?
The US mint had a high mintage of nearly 800 million Jefferson nickels in 1979, making these coins abundant on the coin market nowadays. Consequently, the 1979 Jefferson nickel can’t be considered a rare coin, except for some errors.
Which 1979 nickel is worth more money than the average?
- The 1979 D MS 67 nickel (FS) – $4,500 on eBay in 2022
- The 1979 S PR 70 nickel (Type 2 DCAM) – $2,530 at Heritage auctions in 2008
- The 1979 MS 66 nickel (FS) – $2,115 at Heritage Auctions in 2016
- The 1979 MS 63 nickel – $1,898 at Bowers&Merena in 2003
- The 1979 S PR 70 nickel (Type 1 DCAM) – $1,763 at Heritage Auctions in 2013
- The 1979 D MS 67 nickel – $345 at Heritage Auctions in 2008
How much does the 1979 No Mint mark nickel cost?
The high mintage of 1979 nickels in the Philadelphia mint significantly influences these coins’ value on the coin market. An average well-preserved circulated specimen can cost only five cents, while a piece in the mint state is worth about three dollars. However, auction prices are higher and go up to $2,000.
What are the most valuable Jefferson nickels?
The Jefferson nickel production started in 1938, and you probably expect coins from that period to be the most expensive. Actually, the most valuable is the one from San Francisco, minted in 1954. This coin with Full Steps won the auction record after selling for $35,250 in 2020.