The Jefferson Nickel is a classic American coin. It’s been in circulation since the 1930s and is still used today. Although the 1974 nickel value is not much more than its face value, it’s still a popular coin among collectors – especially beginner collectors.
This coin exists in two different versions: Pre-war and post-war nickels.
In this article, we’ll discuss the value, design, history, gradings, and errors of this 1974 Jefferson nickel.
1974 Nickel Value Chart
|Series/Mint Mark||MS60||MS 63||MS 65|
|1974 No Mint Mark Nickel Value||$0.3||$0.33|
|1974 D Nickel Value||$0.3||$0.33|
|1974 S Proof Nickel Value||2.3|
Sometimes people find a coin in their spare change and something about it catches their eye: maybe an error or it might just be really old. In some cases, these coins can be worth something. It’s rare, but not impossible to find coins worth a few hundred bucks in your spare change.
Unfortunately, for the nickel, it’s highly unlikely this will happen. The share volume of these coins that exist makes them extremely common. Even the older ones from 1974 and earlier are not that valuable unless they possess an error that truly makes the coin one-of-a-kind.
More often than not a nickel from 1947 in excellent mint condition might still be valued less (much less) than one full dollar. This is because of the volume which was minted this year. Many other coins of a high MS 67 are often valued between $50 – $100.
However, one 1974 Jefferson nickel has been sold on eBay for well over $2000.
In Philadelphia, little over half a billion coins were struck in 1974. 601,752,00 of them to be exact. The 1974 version of the coin from Philadelphia does not have a mint mark. There was another version of the Philadelphia coin that was produced in the 1940s with a mint mark. We’ll discuss this further down. Coins from Denver and San Francisco both have their mint marks.
In 1974, 881,737,568 Jefferson nickels were minted across the country.
1974 No Mint Mark Nickel Value
The 1974 nickel is a rather small coin. It’s 21,2 mm in diameter and weighs only 5 grams. It’s composed of 75 copper and 25% nickel.
The design of the coin is rather simple compared to some other coins. On the obverse, we see President Thomas Jefferson facing the left. Many presidential portraits on coins reveal their necks and show little of the shoulders.
This Jefferson portrait features a large collar from his outfit as well as parts of his shoulders and even the beginning of his back. His portrait is rather large and takes up almost all the space vertically. The text on the coin usually arcs along the upper and lower rim, but in this case, it’s been pushed to the sides due to the large portrait.
The text in front of Jefferson’s face reads “In God We Trust”. This American motto we see on the majority of all modern American coins. The same can be said about the word behind his head – “Liberty”.
Jefferson wrote one of the most famous and quoted phrases from the Independence of Declaration: “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. So, his having the word liberty on his coin makes sense.
Next to “Liberty” is the year of the production of the coin displayed – “1974”. The designer’s initials can be found close to the bottom rim, underneath Jefferson’s shoulder. F.S. can be seen if you look for it. These initials were not added until 1966.
Early drafts of the obverse featured stylized lettering surrounding the busts. However, these were ultimately omitted to make the coin appear more formal.
This side of the coin features Jefferson’s famous residence in Monticello, Virginia. Original drafts of the reverse were not accepted by President Roosevelt as he felt the residence needed to be shown from the front.
Initially, the design had a palm tree in front of the building, and the house itself was an angle. The design ended up with a front view of the residence with the word “Monticello” written in capitalized letters underneath it.
Below the name is the denomination displayed: Five Cents. And below that, along the bottom edge, is “United States of America” written.
Arcing along the top edge is the Latin phrase always featured on American coins. It reads “E Pluribus Unum” which means “out of many, one”.
The Jefferson Nickel was first introduced to the public in 1938. It replaced the buffalo coin, also known as the Indian head coin. This coin had been in circulation for the past 25 years until it was replaced.
There were two main reasons why the Buffalo coin was being replaced. Its build was not particularly good. The coin broke easily and got scratched quickly after only a short time in circulation. The overall quality was poor.
Although it did pay homage and tribute to Native American history, the US government decided that all coins should feature real people, not only allegory images. So Lady Liberty and the Buffalo coins were among those replaced.
There was a competition held to determine who would design this new Jefferson nickel. Competitions have frequently been used to decide who the designer will be, and what the design will be.
This time around the winner was not American. Instead, the design competition was won by Felix Schlag, a German-born immigrant. He was the winner out of 400 contributions.
Coin designs are often based on other artists’ work. Jean Antoine Houdon’s busts have inspired many coin designs. Schalg’s design was based on Gilbert Stuart’s work. Gilbert had created a portrait of Thomas Jefferson which had been featured in an art book that Schalg came across. This image served as the inspiration for the coin design.
Both President Roosevelt and US Mint director Nellie Tayloe Ross sign off on Schalg’s design after requesting a few modifications. Once they were happy with the design it entered circulation in 1938.
Very little has changed about the design since its first production years. Like most coins, the composition changed at one point. The difference is the Jefferson Nickel reverted to its previous composition of copper and nickel.
Between 1942 and 1946, a “War-time nickel” was produced. During these years the coin was copper and silver with manganese. The wartime nickel struck in Philadelphia had the mint mark “P” on it. Which was the first time Philadelphia put a mint mark on their coins.
What makes the wartime Philadelphia nickel more special is the mint mark location. For the Denver and San Francisco series, the mint mark is on the obverse. The wartime “P” nickel had the mint mark on the reverse. It’s located right about the Monticello residence.
After the war, however, both competition and previous designs went back to their earlier version – without the mint mark.
1974 D Nickel Value
The value of the coin minted in Denver, which bears the mint mark “D”, is about the same as the coin from Philadelphia. Although this coin exists in a far lower number, it has no real impact on its value. A total of 277,273,000 were produced in Denver.
You might sell or buy them for a similar price as you would the Philadelphia series. In some cases, they might be worth a few dollars. One instance saw the 1974 D nickel MS 67 be sold for 1,645 dollars in 2015.
As far as the design goes, it’s the same as the other version except for the mint mark. In Philadelphia, there was no mint mark. In this coin, a small “D” can be found on the obverse. Its exact location is below the number 4 on the coin’s date.
1974 S Nickel Value
Often the mint in San Francisco’s only duty is to create proof coins. They produced these mints in different locations from commercial coins because each coin requires more work. A proof coin is a coin made for collectors, not public currency which will circulate.
The level of detail is higher, they’re shinier, have more luster, and are overall better-looking coins. They have the mint mark “S” on the obverse – the same location as the Denver coin.
Proof coins are often, but not always, more valuable than “regular” coins. In this instance, the difference isn’t large. MS 67 may be sold and bought for $5. Slightly higher grading might reach the $13-$14 range.
1974 Nickel Grading
Collectors and experts look at the conditions of a coin when they determine how much it should be valued. They observe things such as the level of detail left after circulation, and damages or blemishes the coin has sustained during its lifetime.
These are all general rules applied to all coins. Some coins whether have a very particular thing that can only be evaluated on that coin. On the 1974 Jefferson nickel, that thing is the steps of the Monticello residence.
Full steps mean that a good level of detail has been kept. If the steps are visible and noticeable, that means the coin will be more valuable. Why is this the case?
The high and low points on the obverse and reverse, respectively, are located almost on the same spots on the coin. This makes the striking process more difficult. It became rare that a die would strike so hard and accurately that it left proper lines where the steps were.
If a coin has very clear steps leading up the house then the coin was struck differently than the vast majority of all coins. These Full Step nickel coins are rare. In 2020, this coin was sold for $4,230 at an auction.
Rare 1974 Nickel Error List
1974 nickel Broadstrike error
There have been coins found from this series that has been broad struck. This essentially means the coin can either appear stretched out or that it’s not perfectly centered.
This happens when the strike of the coin happens outside the collar of the coin.
For it to be a broad strike, there can’t be anything missing from the design on either the obverse or the reverse. The more extreme the error is, the more money it can be worth.
1974 Off-center strike
This error is similar to the previous one, but there is one crucial difference. For it to be an off-center stroke, a piece of the design is missing. Generally, this error is much more obvious than the broad strike issue.
Broad strike elongates the design since it’s stuck on the collar, but nothing is missing from the design. Off-center strikes can be extreme and have large parts of the design, both sides, missing.
1974 Nickel Value FAQ
What is the error on the 1974 nickel?
There is one extremely rare nickel that has a double strike. The coin has been struck twice. This coin still exists in its uncirculated mint set. Its estimated value is between $15.000 and $17.000.
How much is a 1974 no-mint mark?
If you’re looking to buy one, you can expect to pay around 1 dollar for it. Some sell them for half that price, and some for slightly more. Generally, the value of the 1974 nickel is low, but depending on exact conditions or errors the value can vary. Only in rare cases does the value become significant or see a dramatic increase.