If one word sums up the Jefferson 5-cent coin, it would be
"change" because throughout its storied history it has
endured many changes.
- The Mint mark has been placed in three different locations,
and disappeared completely for a time.
- The designer's
initials were added, but not until 1966, nearly two decades after
the coin was introduced. (Coin World helped lead the
successful public campaign to get Felix Schlag's initials on the
- The composition was changed, with the nickel component
dropped for nearly four years – mid-1942 through 1945 – from the
coin most Americans call a "nickel.
- It has been issued
with multiple surface finishes: standard business strike, Brilliant
Proof, Frosted Proof and a non-Proof Matte Finish.
Jefferson 5-cent coin was selected for new designs as a way of
commemorating Jefferson's role and the bicentennials of the
Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Felix Schlag, a German-born designer, won a national design
competition to replace the Indian Head 5-cent coin in 1938. Mint
officials then still followed the 25-year rule (legally, still in
effect today) that they interpreted as requiring design changes every
25 years. Although Schlag won, officials rejected his winning reverse
design of Monticello as viewed from an oblique angle, and replaced it
with the more static head-on view still used today.
COIN VALUES: See how much Jefferson 5-cent coins are worth today
World War II brought the most significant alloy change for the
Jefferson 5-cent coin. The composition was significantly altered and
the Mint mark relocated to note the alloy change. The short Wartime
Alloy set is an inexpensive, popular one with collectors, totaling 12 coins.
The series is a fantastic one for die variety collectors: It has
numerous repunched Mint marks, over Mint marks and doubled dies,
including the 1943/2-P overdate variety. Many can be found
unattributed in dealers' inventories at a fraction of their real
values, if one knows what to look for.
Not counting the die varieties and some of the early Proofs, there
is only one non-Proof Jefferson 5-cent coin that could be considered
slightly scarce, and it is dated 1994! A special 1994-P Jefferson
5-cent coin was struck with a non-Proof Matte Finish. It was issued as
part of the Jefferson Coin and Currency set (it comprises the
Jefferson commemorative silver dollar, a Series 1976 $2 Federal
Reserve note depicting Jefferson, and the special 5-cent coin). Final
mintage of the special 5-cent coin was 167,703 pieces.
New Jefferson 5-cent designs were created under the banner of the
"Westward Journey Nickel Program." In 2004 Jefferson's
portrait was retained on the obverse and two new reverses were
produced. One reverse design honors the Louisiana Purchase and
features the design of the Jefferson Indian peace medal Lewis and
Clark distributed to native leaders. The second depicts the larger
boat the expedition used along the Missouri River for a portion of the
journey. A new, right-facing Jefferson portrait was selected for the
2005 obverse and it was paired with two new commemorative reverses: A
plains bison, one of the many animal species Lewis and Clark
Expeditions members saw during their journeys; and a scene of the
Pacific Ocean coastline representing the end of the westward journey
of Lewis and Clark. A new full-facing portrait of Jefferson was added
to the obverse in 2006 and Monticello was restored to the reverse.
Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:
Cents and half cents:
2- and 3-cent coins:
Dimes and half dimes: