1964 Nickel: The Ultimate Collector’s Guide
The 1964 Jefferson nickel has the highest mintage total of any nickel in United States history, totaling nearly three billion coins made.
Nickels dated 1964 were being produced well into 1966 – the only mintage year that carried over through multiple years in the history of the coin.
The first nickel to hit even one billion in coins minted, the 1964 Jefferson nickel’s extremely large mintage numbers are attributed to a shortage of other coins in circulation at the time due to the hoarding of silver in the early-to-mid 1960s.
Mintmarks were suspended from 1965-67 in response to the coin shortage in hopes of deterring coin hoarders from stashing mintmarked coins.
The more obvious adverse effects of the shortage ended in late 1966/early 1967 and mintmarks resumed in 1968.
The Jefferson nickel replaced the Buffalo nickel as the United States’ five-cent piece in 1938.
The Buffalo nickel was one of the most troublesome coins to strike in United States history, leading to a quick decision to replace it after the end of its mandatory 25-year term as the nation’s five-cent coin in circulation.
In early 1938, the United States Mint held a design competition for the new coin.
The Mint’s requirements for the new coin were relatively stringent, with the mandate that former President Thomas Jefferson be featured on the obverse of the coin and his house, Monticello, be featured on the reverse.
Artist Felix Schlag won the competition, but still was required to submit a completely new design for the reverse of the coin (and make other aesthetic alterations) prior to the beginning of production in October 1938.
Mints: Philadelphia, Denver
- Overall: 2,815,919,922
- Philadephia: 1,028,622,762
- Denver: 1,787,297,160
Edge Type: Plain
Composition: 0.750 copper, 0.250 nickel
Designer: Felix Schlag
Front Features: Designer Felix Schlag’s side profile of Thomas Jefferson centers the obverse of the coin and takes up about 80 percent of the space of the coin.
His bust bears a close resemblance to one created by sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon which can currently be found in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.
The depth of the profile is striking upon first glance when looking at near-mint versions of the nickel, popping off the coin visually in a way that gives it a unique gravitas.
To the left of Jefferson’s bust wrapping the left edge of the coin lies the phrase “In God We Trust.”
To the right of Jefferson’s bust, the word “Liberty” and the mintage year mirror the wrap of the left phrasing.
“Liberty” and the mintage year are separated by a miniature star which can easily mistaken for a basic dot on first glance.
Reverse Features: Felix Schlag’s original design for the reverse was centered by a three-quarters view of Jefferson’s estate, Monticello.
However, a tree that accompanied the design was nixed by the United States Mint (along with the modernistic lettering Schlag used for the phrasing on the side).
Schlag’s redesign of the reverse is much starker than the original.
A plain, straight-ahead rendering of the Monticello estate stretches horizontally across the center of the coin – with the word “Monticello” directly underneath.
Above the Monticello rendering is the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” which rainbows across the top edge of the coin.
Underneath the phrase “Monticello” (which is horizontally aligned) are the phrases “Five Cents” and “United States of America” in concurrent rainbows to that of the phrasing on top of the reverse.
Errors and Variations
Jefferson nickels minted in the late 1950s through the mid-1960s were the victim of poor strikes at the mintage facilities, due to dies that lacked sharpness of detail in comparison to that of years prior.
Thus, 1964 Jefferson nickels often look weakened and soft comparatively to other nickels in the series, coming off distorted.
The exception to this comes in the rare uncirculated versions of the coin and the 3.9 million proofs of the 1964 Jefferson nickel which were created for collecting purposes.
While 1964 Jefferson nickels are ubiquitous due to astronomically high mintage numbers, uncirculated and proof versions of the coin are much rarer and offer a spike in value to the collector.
There are a litany of 1964 Jefferson nickel errors floating around on the secondary market.
The most talked-about are versions which appear to have been double- or triple-struck with the “D” for the Denver Mint.
There’s also variations of the coin which appear to be much thinner in mass, along with coins which appear to be incompletely struck due to the aforementioned poor die.
Grading and Condition Issues
The key to a 1964 Jefferson’s nickel’s value lies in the condition of Jefferson’s bust on the obverse.
Wear to the bust usually begins in Jefferson’s cheekbone, moving towards his hair and the bottom of the bust the more the coin has been circulated and handled.
An About Uncirculated (AU-50) version of the nickel will only show minor wear.
Anything more than that and you’re looking at a face value coin at an Extremely Fine grade or below.
Coins at the bottom of the grading spectrum (Very Good to About Good) will also show significant distortion and wear to the roof and structure of Monticello on the reverse, along with a potential merging of the phrases to the edging of the coin.
For a 1964 Jefferson nickel to have any value above face, the coin must only bear slight blemishes, trace nicks, or scratches.
It must also have maintained nearly all of its mint luster – a rare find considering the universal poor striking of the 1964 Jefferson nickel.
Such boom or bust grading for the 1964 Jefferson nickels means it’s rarely collected by serious collectors in any condition below Choice Uncirculated (MS-65).
The value of a 1964 Jefferson nickel will undoubtedly be face value unless you happen upon an uncirculated, barely-handled piece.
Such Jefferson nickels are hard to find, especially at value MS-65 or above.
Thus, you’ll see a sharp value increase for near-mint and proof 1964 Jefferson nickels.
Anything below that threshold is of negligible monetary value above the face value of the coin.
Good (G-4) to Extremely Fine (VF-20): Face value
Uncirculated (MS-60): $0.26
Choice Uncirculated (MS-65): $8.47
Proof (PR-65): $3.06