The Jefferson nickel debuted in 1938, replacing the Buffalo nickel in the 25th year of its production run. A design contest to commemorate Founding Father and third president of the United States Thomas Jefferson, open to “all American sculptors”, was held in 1937. German émigré and American artist Felix Oscar Schlag was the winner. He received $1,000 for his effort.

Schlag’s concept for the obverse, which art scholar Cornelius Vermeule claimed was similar to Jean-Antoine Houdon’s 1789 bust of Thomas Jefferson, appeared essentially the same on the five-cent nickel for 66 years. His original reverse concept, however–featuring an innovative three-quarters perspective of Jefferson’s mansion Monticello–was rejected by the Treasury Department. Various changes were requested, the most significant of which being the flat, head-on portrayal of Monticello that is found on Jefferson nickels minted to this very day (though commemorative issues with different reverses have also been released). According to the rules of the design competition, the winning artist would receive no additional compensation for this extra work.

In 1964, Mint Director Eva Adams took measures against the coin collecting community for what she perceived as their part in contemporary coin shortages (in truth, the recent explosion in automatic tolls, vending machines, and other coin accepting devices had caught the Mint unprepared). Wrongly believing that the impact of collectors, hoarders, and speculators pulling modern coins from circulation was the significant factor, Adams removed mint marks from coins produced in Denver (D) and San Francisco (S) and stopped the production of Proofs.

As a consequence, nickels dated 1965, ’66, and ’67 do indeed lack mint marks.

United States 1964-D Jefferson Nickel

Luckily for collectors, 1964-dated nickels were not affected, and so it is a matter of public record that the Denver Mint struck 1,787,297,160 pieces that year. Part of the reason for this is that coins dated 1964 were also struck in the early part of 1965, but regardless of this quibbling detail, the 1964-D Jefferson nickel has the highest mintage to date of the entire series.

As such, the 1964-D is the most common coin in a series full of common coins, but collecting by condition and strike may present challenges. Among the major third-party grading services, PCGS lists 129 examples certified MS-66, with none finer. A total of 507 specimens rate MS-65, and 239 are graded MS-64. NGC grades seven pieces MS-67, with none finer. The next common grades at NGC are 66 (with 193 examples), and 65 (with 163 specimens).

As for the strike, many coin collectors are familiar with the notion of “Full Steps“. This refers to the sharpness and visibility of detail in regards to the steps in front of Monticello on the reverse. A grand total of six steps are rendered in the absolute best examples, while five full steps are still exceptional. Unfortunately, dies used during the period 1960 through 1967 did not always include a sixth step to begin with, so five full steps are the best one can hope for in a 1964-D. But the determined collector should be able to cherry-pick a full five-step specimen out of almost two billion potential candidates.

Design

Obverse:

United States 1964-D Jefferson NickelA left-facing bust of President Thomas Jefferson, including a colonial-era pigtail and strikingly similar in detail to the profile of Jean-Antoine Houdon’s 1789 bust, takes up the majority of the obverse. The top of his head almost touches the rim, and the barest of truncations is visible at the bottom where Jefferson’s left shoulder meets the edge of the coin. The motto IN GOD WE TRUST–which became the national motto in 1956–arcs clockwise along most of the length of the left side of the coin, starting from Jefferson’s chest and extending to his hairline. The inscriptions LIBERTY and the date 1964 run clockwise along the right side behind Jefferson. A small five-pointed star divides the two inscriptions

Reverse:

The reverse features a front view of Monticello, Jefferson’s mansion near Charlottesville, Virginia. The polymath Jefferson designed the neoclassical building himself, based on architectural principles from the Italian Renaissance; the name “Monticello” comes from the Italian for “mound” or “little mountain”. The building loses much of its dimensionality in the flattened rendering, but the octagonal nature of the dome can still be interpreted, and better strikes reveal significant detail in the steps and portico.

Atop the reverse is the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM (“Out of Many, One”). The name MONTICELLO–the placement of which on the coin was one of the revisions forced upon Schlag by the Mint–is found in a straight line immediately under the building; the positions and spacing of the other inscriptions had to be adjusted to make room for it. The denomination FIVE CENTS forms a gently curving line beneath that, and the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA runs counterclockwise along the bottom edge of the coin. A small mint mark “D” is found to the far right of the mansion.

Interestingly, Felix Schlag’s initials did not appear on a Jefferson nickel until 1966.

Edge:

The edge of the 1964-D Jefferson Nickel is smooth.

Designer(s)

Felix Schlag was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1891. After receiving an education at the Munich University of Fine Arts, he moved to the United States in 1929. Schlag died in 1974. Yet while he did win numerous art contests and commissions throughout much of the remainder of his life, the Jefferson Nickel was his only coin design.

Coin Specifications

Country:  USA
Year Of Issue:  1964
Denomination:  Five Cents
Mint Mark:  D (Denver)
Mintage: 1,787,297,160
Alloy:  75% Copper, 25% Nickel
Weight:  5.00 g
Diameter:  21.21 mm
Edge: Smooth (Plain)
OBV Designer  Felix Schlag
REV Designer  Felix Schlag
Quality: Business Strike

 

39 COMMENTS

  1. In your coin specification section you have labeled this articled as one based on a half dollar instead of a 5 cent piece.

  2. It’s interesting to look at Jefferson nickel mintage figures in light of the 1964-67 “Great Coin Shortage”. In the previous decade production at Philadelphia and Denver ranged from a comparatively minuscule low of 7,888,000 (1955) to 280,195,720 (1962-D). In 1964 output exploded to 1,028,622,762 at Philly and 1,787,297,160 at Denver. Silver hoarding had removed dimes, quarters, and halves from circulation, leaving the lowly nickel and cent as the only denominations that were still easy to obtain. Getting change was an ordeal – I was a kid at the time and remember my mother complaining about having a purse filled with nickels whenever she went shopping, because no higher-value coins were available.

  3. Hi, I have been looking online for a 1964 nickel with the mansion on back upside down. I have not found one. Does anyone know anything about this?

      • The story of designer Felix Schlag’s initials has a couple of twists and turns.

        It’s not clear why, but Schlag never included his initials on the original design even though other denominations all had initials or monograms.

        Jefferson nickels were effectively “anonymous” until 1966, when Jefferson’s portrait was very slightly modified to display a tiny “FS” below the portrait, similar to how “VDB” was placed under Lincoln’s shoulder back in 1918.

        Schlag’s initials were temporarily removed during 2005 when special designs were issued for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.

        2006 saw a new obverse from a different artist, but Schlag’s reverse showing Monticello was resumed. Accordingly, his initials were moved to the reverse side. They’re to the right of Monticello in the position occupied by mint marks up through 1964.

    • As the article states, over 1.7 BILLION were minted. It’s the single most common issue of the whole series, with no added value.

    • Oceans of 1964 nickels were churned out by both Philadelphia (no mint mark) and Denver (D). Even today, a circulated one isn’t worth anything extra.

  4. I have a 1964 D – it is easy to see it was punched from Reverse to Obverse as the Reverse has almost no Rim and the Obverse is very high. All images are shallow on Reverse and deep in Obverse. Five Cents almost doesnt show at all.
    Any Comments

  5. I have a 1964 nickel with a with a H above the dome. It is 1964 Nickel with the D on the left on the backside. Any info would help

    • The H sounds like post-Mint damage. The US never had an H mint mark, plus the only nickels with mint marks over Monticello were the famous war nickels minted from late 1942 through the end of 1945.

  6. I have 2 1964 d nickel but one is a little colored around the top and back part of the nickel. Looks like he has a pirates rag on his head lol

    • Except for war nickels, Philadelphia didn’t use a mint mark until 1979/80. The lack of a mint mark on a 1964 nickel is perfectly normal.

  7. I have a 1964 Nickel with the D mint mark on the back next to the mansion along with a few other errors.. Wondering if it’s worth as much as I’ve seen online when I looked it up.. Any info is greatly appreciated..

    • As the article states, 1964-D is the single most common date/mint mark of the entire Jefferson series. Unless it’s uncirculated it has no added value.

      To clarify some points:

      • “D” isn’t an error, it’s simply the mint mark for Denver.
      • The “mansion” is Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello. Its name is right below the image.

    • As the article states, 1964-D is the single most common issue. Even after nearly 60 years any that you find in change are still only worth 5¢.

  8. Are you still working I have a 1964 Jefferson nickel with mint mark on side of building a star up above the date yeah how much is the value

    • Uh, please check any other pre-2005 Jefferson nickel in your pocket change. They ALL have a star next to the date – it’s part of the design.

      And as the article states, 1964-D is the single most common coin in the series. Any that you find in change are only worth face value. Unfortunately age doesn’t always correlate with rarity.

    • As the article notes, 1964-D is the single most common coin of the entire Jefferson series. Despite its age it has no added value.

  9. Yes i have 2 1964d nickels one is shiny and the other ones kinda a duller color the the shiny one is in very good shape would it be worth getting graded

    • Unless it’s known to be uncirculated, it’s not worth spending the money to have it graded. Almost two billion were minted, and only those in top condition are worth more than 5¢.

  10. Hello love the comments on here hehe…love the questions people ask…. Anywho I started keeping some of my coins since my friend told me more about things and details that can go along with coins and so on. Of course a regular person with no true wisdom I the field can see everything. But figured I would share what I had came across after a year or more of paying closer attention to my pocket change.

  11. 1- 1934 no mint mark wheat penny
    1- 1935 buffalo nickel no mint
    9- 1937 wheat pennies no mint mark- (Philadelphia) copper
    1- 1943 Steel ( Obviously Magnetic) no mint mark Philadelphia wheat penny ( kept in coin case)
    1- 1945 copper Philadelphia no mint mark wheat penny
    2- 1946 copper Philadelphia no.mint mark wheat penny

    (1964-D Nickel, very common )

    1…possibly more 1983- no mint mark, doubleing on reverse side, close AM, and def. Holey looking putting I assume? Very apparent tiny holes one almost way thru. Also has a red color tone to it with staining. Among tons more in the year….

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