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1955 Jefferson nickel deserves attention

 In a year filled with interesting coinage, the low-mintage 1955 Jefferson nickel has long been overlooked among other denominations. (Proof images courtesy

In a year filled with interesting coinage, the low-mintage 1955 Jefferson nickel has long been overlooked among other denominations. (Proof images courtesy

All Jefferson nickels should have received additional attention given the design changes that began with the series in 2004, but that attention was brief and did not translate into suddenly higher prices. If Jeffersons do post gains going forward, one date well worth watching in the nickel set would have to be the 1955.

While plenty of attention has been paid to the coins of 1955, virtually none has gone to the Jefferson nickel. Part of the reason could be that they have not been setting the world on fire in terms of price increases. Likely more responsible, however, is the fact that 1955 was a very good year for every denomination. Even at the time, which was pretty good for nickels, the 1955 was probably overlooked.

Also, things were complicated in 1955. The first big news of the year was that San Francisco was producing its last coins. At least, everyone thought it would be the last year of coin production. Although things did not turn out that way, no coins would be produced at San Francisco for over a decade; but for all anyone knew in 1955, that was the final production, which turned out to be just a cent and a dime.

San Francisco, which had a reputation for frequently producing low-mintage coins, did not disappoint. The 1955-S cent had the lowest Lincoln cent mintage (44,610,000) since 1939, while the 1955-S dime (18,510,000) was also relatively low. Those two coins alone had people making special holders for the “Last Coins of San Francisco” and dealers thinking about vacationing in Aruba thanks to the likely profits from the 1955-S coins.

Getting rich off the 1955-S cent and dime was not all that likely, of course, but when someone discovered a 1955 cent with a doubled-die obverse, things took a turn for the better. Someone may indeed have gone to Aruba after finding a few 1955 doubled-die obverse cents, because they really were spectacular coins. Again, 1955 was one of those years that comes along every few decades where virtually every coin was good.

For example, while the 1955-S dime certainly stood out, the 1955 and 1955-D dimes had even lower mintages (12,828,381 and 13,959,000, respectively). That fact resulted in other holders for the three dimes of 1955, which made sense because they were three of the lowest-mintage Roosevelt dimes.

The 1955-D Washington quarter was a low-mintage coin (3,182,400), as was the 1955 Franklin half dollar (2,876,381). With these coin totals of around 3 million pieces, it was probably hard to notice that the 1955 Jefferson nickel had a mintage of just 8,266,200 pieces.

In addition, that mintage would not have been quite as exciting at the time as it might seem today. Total for the 1951-S nickel was 7,776,000, after all, and the famous 1950-D was just 2,630,030. But checking dates shows that the 1955 is the lowest-mintage circulation nickel since 1955 by almost 10 million pieces.

Despite its low mintage, the 1955 Jefferson nickel was not widely discussed at the time, and even today has not exactly been discovered. Back in 1998, if you wanted an MS65 example, the likely cost was about $1.25. An entire uncirculated roll listed for only $7.50, but in a soft market for nickels, no one really paid much attention.

Today, the 1955 has gone up in price due to slabbing the higher MS grades. The gains may have beaten some can’t-miss stocks, with an MS65 currently priced at $25. An uncirculated roll is now $19.

Even with these increases, the 1955 Jefferson nickel is still pretty cheap. That uncirculated roll price, for example, comes out to a mere 47.5 cents per coin. If you find one MS65 with five full steps, that takes the price past $100. Where is the risk, assuming you can find someone willing to sell you a nice roll of original coins?

While rolls are almost certainly too cheap, the price on an individual MS65 is also subject to question. It certainly is fair to suggest that Jefferson nickels are not hot. Design changes that might have made a difference seemingly have not, at least not yet.

That said, the coin is approaching its 65th year and had a mintage well under 10 million. Maybe neither of these factors alone will push the 1955 higher, but the combination seems likely to work eventually.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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