1964 Jefferson Nickel Value: The Ultimate Collector‘s Guide

The 1964 Jefferson nickel is one of the most intriguing modern issues for collectors. While struck in massive quantities, this unassuming five-cent coin hides some exciting rarities and varieties for astute numismatists.

In this in-depth guide, we uncover everything you need to know about the 1964 nickel – from its history and mintage to the most valuable varieties, errors, and striking characteristics that determine premium value.

Jefferson Nickel Series Background

First, let‘s set the stage with some context on the Jefferson nickel series. This long-running design first debuted in 1938, replacing the Buffalo nickel. It features a left-facing portrait of America‘s third president, Thomas Jefferson, on the obverse. The reverse depicts a front view of Jefferson‘s iconic home, Monticello.

The Jefferson nickel composition is 75% copper and 25% nickel (with the exception of special 35% silver "Wartime Nickels" issued from 1942-1945). This standard alloy gives the coin a distinct silver color. Each nickel weighs 5.00 grams with a diameter of 21.2 mm.

1964 represents a key year of transition for United States coinage. It marked the last year that circulating silver denominations like the dime, quarter, and half dollar were struck in 90% silver before switching to a copper-nickel clad composition. Though the nickel‘s alloy remained unchanged, 1964 still holds a special place for collectors as an end of an era.

Mintage Figures & Strike Types

The Philadelphia (no mintmark) and Denver (D) Mints struck 1964 nickels for circulation. The Philadelphia facility produced 1,028,622,762 pieces while Denver coined 1,787,297,160 for a combined total of over 2.8 billion coins. These high mintages mean that circulated examples are still readily available for collectors today.

In addition to the regular business strikes, the US Mint also produced a limited number of 1964 Special Mint Set (SMS) nickels. The SMS coins were made as a replacement for the standard proof set which was not issued in 1964 due to rising silver prices and Mint efforts to discourage hoarding of the sets.

SMS coins display a unique satin or matte-like finish that is distinct from both the mirror-like proof surface and regular business strike luster. The exact mintage of 1964 SMS nickels is unknown but presumed to be very small based on the limited numbers of complete Special Mint Sets sold (estimated around 20-50,000). These special strike 1964 nickels are highly prized and valuable in the numismatic market.

Full Steps Designation

One of the most important strike characteristics for Jefferson nickel collectors is the presence of "Full Steps" (FS) details on Monticello‘s stairs on the reverse. Coins that show either 5 or 6 steps on Monticello that are fully delineated with clear separation between each step are eligible for the Full Steps designation from major third party grading services like PCGS, NGC, and ANACS.

To qualify as Full Steps, the lines separating each step must be complete and unbroken. Even the slightest weakness or incompleteness disqualifies a coin from the FS label. Additionally, the steps must be clearly defined and not just indented or "flat."

Achieving the sharpness and detail necessary for the Full Steps designation requires a perfect combination of fresh, unworn dies, sufficient striking pressure, and high quality, well-mixed planchets. Full Steps examples are quite rare, representing just a tiny fraction of the original mintages.

For 1964 nickels, the Full Steps designation is recognized for coins graded MS60 and higher. Across all grades, PCGS has certified only 315 1964 nickels and 339 1964-D nickels with 5FS. At the 6FS level, populations thin dramatically to just 26 and 30 pieces for 1964 P and D respectively (as of May 2023).

The presence of the Full Steps designation has a tremendous impact on value and desirability. Collectors will pay exponential premiums for FS examples compared to coins of the same grade without the cherished moniker.

Grading & Condition

As with all coins, grade is king when it comes to 1964 nickel values. Examples that score high in technical grade and display superior eye appeal will always fetch the strongest prices.

Circulated 1964 nickels in the lowest grades of Good (G4) and Very Good (VG8) are abundant and trade for prices close to face value – generally 5 to 10 cents each. Even mid circulated grades like Fine (F12) and Very Fine (VF20) are highly affordable, typically under 25 cents per coin.

Values start to rise in Extremely Fine (EF40) as more details become visible. Choice EF45 examples with nice eye appeal can fetch $1 or more. The real premiums kick in at the About Uncirculated (AU50) level and higher.

In Mint State grades, surface preservation and luster become critical factors. Uncirculated coins grading MS60 to MS62 are still relatively common, trading for $3 to $10 each depending on eye appeal. Gem examples grading MS65 and higher by PCGS and NGC are significantly scarcer and more valuable.

Here is a table of 1964 nickel estimated values in various Mint State grades:

Grade 1964 P 1964 D
MS60 $3 $3
MS63 $8 $7
MS64 $20 $18
MS65 $65 $55
MS66 $130 $110

As you can see, each 1 point jump in grade can double (or more) the coin‘s price. This is why many serious Registry Set collectors will pay huge sums for the very finest known survivors in grades like MS67 and MS68.

Full Steps examples bring pricing to a whole different level. In a typical grade like MS65, a regular Gem might fetch $65. A coin with a Full Steps designation could easily be worth $500 or more – nearly a 10X multiplier.

PCGS has graded just 3 regular business strike 1964 nickels in MS67 with Full Steps with the finest known selling for $14,100 in 2006. For 1964-D, the numbers are similar with 2 MS67 Full Steps examples that have traded for over $5,000 a piece.

1964 Special Mint Set (SMS) Nickels

As noted above, a small quantity of 1964 nickels were struck with special care and finish for inclusion in the 1964 Special Mint Sets. These SMS coins are distinct from the regular circulation strikes in a number of ways.

Firstly, the SMS coins display a unique satin luster that appears almost matte-like. The fields are still reflective and shiny but lack the deep, glassy mirror finish seen on regular Proof coins.

SMS strikes also tend to show much stronger detail and sharpness than typical business strikes. Full Steps reverses are comparatively more available. The Mint achieved this higher level of quality by using specially burnished dies and planchets along with extra striking pressure.

While the total SMS mintage is unknown, PCGS has certified just 168 1964 SMS nickels as of May 2023 with 72 earning a Full Steps designation. This compares to over 1,000 graded for the regular 1964-P business strikes, underscoring the extreme rarity of the SMS issues.

Values for 1964 SMS nickels are commensurate with their scarcity. Even a low end uncirculated example can easily fetch $500+. In MS67 and higher, prices quickly run into the thousands of dollars.

The current record for a 1964 SMS nickel is $32,900 set in 2007 by a PCGS SP68 Full Steps example. This coin remains the single finest certified by PCGS with none graded finer (as of May 2023).

If you come across a 1964 nickel with an unusual matte-like finish, be sure to have it evaluated by a reputable third party grading service or an expert in the series. With such small populations and huge potential values, 1964 SMS nickels are prime targets for counterfeiters.

Rare Errors & Varieties

Like all coins, 1964 nickels are prone to production mistakes, errors, and die varieties that can range from subtle to dramatic. Error coin collectors are always on the hunt for these unusual specimens that stand out from the regular issues.

Here are some of the most notable error types known for 1964 nickels with estimated values:

Error Type Description Value Range
Off-Center Missing part of design $25 – $500+
Double/Multi Struck Multiple images from repeated strikes $50 – $1000+
Struck on Wrong Planchet Struck on planchet for another denomination $200 – $5000+
Broadstruck Missing collar creating oversized look $100 – $1000+
Die Break/Cuds Raised blob of metal from broken dies $50 – $500+
Die Caps/Brockages Deeply cupped or incuse mirror images $500 – $5000+

One of the most dramatic errors for the series is the 1964 nickel double struck on a cent planchet. This rare off-metal error features two clear images of the nickel design struck on a smaller 1 cent planchet. Mistakes like these are highly prized by error collectors.

In terms of valuable die varieties, the undisputed "king" is the 1964-D/D Repunched Mintmark FS-501. This variety features a strong D over D repunched mintmark that is visible to the naked eye.

The FS-501 commands thousands of dollars in all grades. PCGS has certified just 21 examples with the finest being an MS66 that sold for $19,800 in 2006. Variety specialists consider this one of the "big four" late stage repunched mintmarks in the series along with the 1943-P/P, 1945-P/P, and 1954-S/S.

Other more affordable repunched mintmark varieties exist for both 1964 and 1964-D nickels. These coins generally range from $50 for circulated examples up to $500+ for uncirculated pieces. Cherrypickers can sometimes find these hidden in junk boxes or unsearched bulk lots.

Collecting Tips

Whether you‘re just starting out or a seasoned pro, collecting 1964 Jefferson nickels offers opportunities for all budgets and interests. Many collectors start by assembling a basic two-piece set with the 1964 P and D business strikes which is easily completable.

From there, you can expand your collection to include the scarcer and more valuable 1964 SMS. Gem examples grading MS65 and higher and/or with Full Steps are blue chip coins for Registry Set collectors and investors.

When buying, be sure to stick with PCGS and NGC certified coins. These established grading services have consistent standards and strong buyer protections. Their grading team are experts at detecting alterations and counterfeit pieces which are becoming an increasing problem in the market.

For uncertified raw coins, learn the diagnostics of genuine examples. Look for well struck details in the steps, pillars, and lettering. Luster should be uniform and original without any signs of cleaning or artificial enhancement.

A good strategy for cherrypicking is to carefully examine bulk lots and rolls of circulated 1964 nickels. While you likely won‘t find any mega rarities, sharp-eyed collectors can sometimes cherrypick choice uncirculated gems, scarce varieties, and low end errors that others miss.

When you do acquire key coins, be sure to store them properly to preserve their condition and value. Use inert materials like Mylar flips or non-PVC plastic holders. Avoid cleaning or otherwise altering the surfaces. A scratch or hairline can quickly ruin a coin‘s value.

State of the Market

The market for 1964 Jefferson nickels has shown solid growth and stability over the long-term. High end Registry-quality coins have set numerous price records at auction and performed well as stores of wealth.

As an example, a 1964 SMS SP68 Full Steps example that sold for $32,900 in 2007 would be worth significantly more today based on overall rare coin market appreciation and increased attention on condition rarities.

The key is to view rare coins like 1964 nickels as a buy and hold asset class. Values can fluctuate in the short-term with the broader economy and changing collector tastes. But over a period of years, the best examples will almost always go up in value due to their fixed rarity and growing demand.

According to the PCGS Population Report, the top graded 1964 nickels are among the rarest of all regular strike Jefferson nickels. For instance, PCGS has certified just 8 1964-P regular strike nickels in MS67 and a single MS67+ with none finer (as of May 2023). These finest knowns often set price records when they trade.

Error coins and die varieties continue to be highly popular with specialists. Collectors are always looking for dramatic errors and rare RPMs to fill holes in their sets. A newly discovered 1964 major error could easily make headlines and bring five-figures or more.

As the market for modern U.S. coins continues to grow and mature, knowledgeable collectors and dealers expect rarities like the finest 1964 nickels to hold their value well. "The 1964 Jefferson nickel series is sneaky tough in superb gem grades and with strong steps," notes Silvano DiGenova, President of Tangible Investments, Inc. "I wouldn‘t be surprised to see a 1964 P or D nickel in MS68 Full Steps bring $100,000 or more in the future. The supply is just so limited and they have such broad appeal."


The 1964 Jefferson nickel may seem common at first glance. But as we‘ve uncovered in this guide, the series is loaded with interesting and valuable varieties for astute collectors. From rare SMS satin finish examples to dramatic errors and minute die varieties, there is always something new to discover.

By carefully studying the series and knowing what to look for, you can assemble an exceptional collection that is both personally meaningful and financially rewarding over the long-term. True gem examples will always be rare and desirable. And you never know when that unassuming nickel in your pocket change could turn out to be a rare treasure. So check your 1964 nickels closely and happy hunting!

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