Making Money Collecting Full Step Jefferson Nickels

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
This articles tells how to spot full step nickels and explains how to making money from finding these coins.

Many people who search for rare coins in their spare change spend lots of time with little results. While you may find an occasional silver coin or a wheat penny, the monetary value of your find may be only a few times the face value of the coin. The real finds are made in coins that are in uncirculated condition and found still in their original bank rolls. These coins have not been searched and re-searched by coin collectors cherry picking the better coins and replacing them to complete the uncirculated roll.

The Jefferson nickel is a good source of finding a valuable coin.

The Jefferson nickel is a good money maker if you know what to spot. Take a look at Jefferson nickels minted before 2003 and after 2006 you will notice a building in the back of the coin. This building is called the Monticello. At the center of the building you will find steps leading up to the building. Since the steps are small you will need a good magnifying glass with at least 10x the magnification. There are at least 5 steps leading to the entrance of the building. Coins minted before the 1990’s had weak strikes on the back of the coin. What this means is that most coins minted did not have distinctive and separated steps. Most of the coins had steps that had worn spots making each separate step not at all distinctive and sharp. Uncirculated coins that have at least 5 distinctive steps are given a FS, full step, designation with their grade. That is the key to making money with the Jefferson nickels. Since most coins had weak strikes, finding ones with a strong strike exhibiting at least five full distinctive steps makes them valuable to certain Jefferson nickel collectors.

Take a look at the pictures below. Figure #1 is a coin that has the full steps showing. Fig#2 is an enlargement of the steps. As you can see all the steps are separate and distinctive. Figure #3 shows most of the steps being distinctive; however. at the left corner you can see the steps merging and not being distinctive. It is a lovely coin; however, it will not have a premium associated with the coin.

Fig #1

Fig #2

Fig #3

At this point we will look at what equally graded coins are worth.

We will compare those that carry the FS designation versus those that don’t. One of the best sites to look at is at Compare any two coins, minted in the same year, from the same mint, having the same grade. Pick one with the FS designation and compare it to one lacking the designation. You will see the price can jump form a few percentage point increase to being dozens of times more expensive. Take for example the 1954 Jefferson minted in Denver. This is a common date. The uncirculated price in mint state 65 (gem uncirculated condition) is $65.00 based on 8/2010 prices. The same coin with the FS designation has a price tag of $750! In the next mint state (mint state 66) the price tag is $425 versus $12,500!

Once you find a coin that is a Full Step candidate, you need to have it graded to get that designation for the coin.

Two good companies to send coins for grading are PCGS  ( Professional Coin Grading Service) and NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation). Both companies are well respected and your grade and designation will carry the greatest deal of credibility. In addition, investors and coin collectors alike generally like to buy coins that have been graded by third party grading companies. The grading puts them at ease that they are getting exactly what they are buying. This is especially true when you are looking at paying 10, 20, or 100 times more than the coin would normally sell.

Your investment is time it takes to find these coins.

I will not belabor the point that these coins are rare. That is why someone would be paying such a premium for the coin. However, these coins are not too impossible to find. If you limit your search to uncirculated, (ORIGINAL) coin bank rolls, you should have a relatively easier time. At first, you will be overly optimistic on what is a true Full Step nickel and have a few bad ones sent to be graded. With experience, you will be able to spot them quickly and have a high percentage graded with the designation.

Lastly, there is lots of personal satisfaction of getting a coin graded with the FS designation worth hundreds of dollars after all the time spent searching for them.

Have fun on your nickel search and Take care.

Photographic Sources:  Published with permission given by Dennis Mize, Fig #1 and Fig #2 Fig #3


Aunty Ann
Posted on May 13, 2011
lucia anna
Posted on Dec 10, 2010
Posted on Aug 9, 2010