By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation….
A Virginia collector feels Jefferson Nickels are poised for an advance — Numismatics experience is a gift for all ages.
As the year rapidly winds down, the media advertising blitz is saturating all available outlets in order to inform us what will give us our holiday cheer this season. It dawned on me that in the next few weeks billions of dollars will be spent on high tech toys for kids and even bigger technology-based toys for the big kids. No one wants to be left behind with the technology of the 1990s as it is so Middle Ages. I mean who in their right mind would still be watching a CRT TV? It has to be at least an LED HDTV, or even a 4K Ultra HDTV! It is the nature of the beast that we want what is new and what is the best. Consumers will wait in line or online to take advantage of the opportunity when these items are rolled out. For all of the advancements, so much of the hardware and software is disposable and will be antiquated before long. This certainly isn’t news, it is just fact.
My first direct introduction with higher tech was when the rotary dial phone was updated to the touchtone phone! It was such a thrilling event to see the construction of the first AT&T satellite towers adjacent to my elementary school. We all took time to stare out the windows in 4th grade at these telecommunication monoliths that would be receiving and sending data. Wow, that was nearly 50 years ago.
Luckily for numismatists, there is a stabilizing factor. We collectors know coins that are rare today will be equally rare if not even more rare in the future. Of course, this is a basic case of supply and demand. In my nearly 50 years of collecting, I can’t think of an instance where key dates from any US series have not performed extremely well. We coindexters carefully decide which coins will be included in our personal collection based on preference, budget and due diligence. We also have history on our side as numismatics is one of the world’s oldest continuing hobbies, which during my lifetime has evolved into a major business as well. Yet we mustn’t lose sight of the reason this great market exists in the first place is because of the collector!
Of course for some entering the hobby, the potential dollar acceleration is a persuasive motive to become involved with numismatics. For others, the joy of building a collection and perhaps bestowing it to a child to continue the process and legacy is a good enough reason.
Regardless of the collector’s stimulus, true quality collector coins will always move from dealer showcases rapidly. As 2015 comes to a close, it is apparent that the elite collectors are still obsessed with obtaining the ultimate certified coins. Whether it is an absolute rarity equipped with the definitive pedigree or a superbly preserved and patina coin, these certified numismatic trophies are getting much harder to come by at all price points.
I caught up with Doug, a new collector, at the Whitman Expo in Baltimore. He informed me that he considers each coin, though from the same series, to be unique. He enjoys looking at the variances in each coin: the color, the strike. These are not rare coins (he is just getting started with a Jefferson Nickel collection) but the fascination is there. “I have just picked up some nice NGC-certified coins” declared the Virginia resident. One coin was a 1938-D Jefferson Nickel graded NGC MS 66. The coin was spectacular! Icy blue and gold toning exploded around the peripheries. It was a fabulous looking Jefferson Nickel! Another coin was the series key: 1939-D. It was similarly toned and graded NGC MS 65. Doug was looking at some silver war nickels as well and deciding if he wanted to go with flashy white coins or World War II Jeffersons that had a little bit of toning. “I picked up a nice war nickel set in a black plastic Capitol holder. I might submit the 1942-P, 1943-S and 1944-P to NGC for grading as they are phenomenal looking coins: all either five or six step showing.”
I must admit this was the first time I’ve run into a collector who was so eager to assemble a Jefferson Nickel set. And so, I asked Doug why he was intrigued with it. For one, the Virginia collector is a bit of a history buff and is fascinated with Thomas Jefferson. However, he often overlooked the fact that a coin bearing the effigy of the third US president would pass through his hands each day. “I just decided earlier this year that I wanted to build a collection. I didn’t realize that it began in 1938, which also happens to be the year my father was born!” Doug continued to explain his intrigue: “the series just has hardly moved at all and I feel it’s a perfect time to be selective and buy coins to complete my set. I think that a lot of the coins in the series have been overlooked by collectors. I have been watching auction results and have been researching the series for nearly a year. I’m just now physically getting started; I only have 14 NGC-certified Jeffersons. I am looking at the five and six FS (Full Steps) graded pieces. I am not sure if I am going that route or not.” This excitement and commitment bodes well for the future of numismatics. New collectors like Doug will always be welcomed into the fold.
Jefferson Nickels are a great entry point for a collector. There are no real stoppers in building a set. You are only limited by your budget for the grades you’d like to attain. Many 5 and 6 FS nickels are NGC US Coin Census rarities! The NGC US Coin Price Guide shows virtually no action in this market segment. You can likely put together a nicely matched choice Mint State 1938-1964 Jefferson Nickel set for around $300.
When I got home, I was compelled to pull out my Jefferson Nickel collection. I don’t have that many certified Jefferson Nickels because my set was built years ago and it remains housed in a Dansco bookshelf album. As I scanned the pages, I immediately recognized toned coins similar to the ones Doug had his eye on. The otherwise simple and often overlooked Jefferson Nickel coin can actually be quite beautiful to behold as accents of blue, gold, lavender and orange dance around the surfaces. I hadn’t looked at my set for years; it was certainly nice to get reacquainted with my traditional 1938-1964 collection. After seeing the joy and excitement on Doug’s face, I am tempted to perhaps pick up where I left off!
Until next time, happy collecting!
Jim Bisognani has written extensively on US coin market trends and values and was the market analyst and writer for a major pricing guide for many years. He currently frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.