In 1966, the United States Mint was at the nadir of what was perhaps the worst American coinage crisis of the 20th century. Only two years after announcing the replacement of the nation’s silver coinage, the government was still struggling to prevent hoarding and produce enough coinage. Among the dubious countermeasures it took against such hoarding, the Mint dropped mintmarks from nickels dated between 1965 and 1967. Not satisfied with this, Congress even moved to criminalized coin collecting, as numismatists were seen as a major reason for hoarding.
So pressed had been the Mint that coins dated 1964 were struck as late as 1966. Numismatic author Justin Lange estimated that “only one-tenth of the issues bearing that date were actually produced during that year”. To accommodate this massive issuance of backdated 1964 and 1965 coins, all Jefferson nickels dated 1966 were actually struck between August and December of that year. This was after US Treasury Secretary Henry Fowler announced in August 1966 that “despite the heavy [potential] demands during the coming holiday season,” the “coin shortage is over.” He continued by stating that despite the Mint’s emergency production slowly returning to normal, “coin production will and must keep pace with a continually growing and expanding economy.”
The 1966 Jefferson Nickel in Today’s Market
As a modern circulating coin with a mintage of over 150 million pieces, the vast majority of 1966 Jefferson nickels are only worth face value.
However, in low Mint State, the coin does begin to see a relatively substantial premium over face value; MS 60 to MS 62 examples can be easily found for $1 or less. It is also quite easy to find examples in this grade at your local coin store or show.
Between MS 64 and MS 65, this type sells reliably for $5 to $10.
As a conditional rarity, this type becomes slightly scarce by MS 66. This is reflected in the price, with examples usually selling for an average of $27 to $30. Several recent eBay sales have capped out at over $100! One such coin, a PCGS-graded MS 66, sold for $171 in March of 2021.
Similarly, the top population grade (MS 67) shows a massive price spread with a number of sales coming in at $10 or less while nearly identical examples are selling for $350 to $500.
But the true value for this type comes with the Full Steps (FS) designation. To earn the designation of Full Steps, a Jefferson nickel must meet the following criteria:
In this graphic, you can see the steps, located on the design between the stylobate (a flat pavement section on which rest the four front columns of the design) and the foundation block at the base of the steps. Factors such as die condition, striking pressure, and incidental contact with other coins play a significant factor in whether a Jefferson nickel will earn the Full Steps designation.
As with other mid-1960s issuances, the Full Steps 1966 type is an extreme rarity. In fact, there is a combined population of only 19 FS 1966 nickels: nine in MS 64 FS; seven in MS 65 FS; and three in MS 66 FS. That being said, there are definitely a higher number of surviving ungraded FS examples. In the lowest available grade (MS 64), this designation will raise the price to between $1,250 and $1,500. MS 65 FS coins have been known to sell for between $5,000 and $7,800.
Jefferson Nickel Design
A 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 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 (1966) run clockwise along the right side behind Jefferson. A small five-pointed star divides the two inscriptions
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 designer Felix 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. Despite all 1966 nickels being coined at the Denver (103,546,700) and San Francisco (52,661,583) Mints, this type has no mint mark
Interestingly, it wasn’t until this year (1966) that Felix Schlag’s initials appeared at the bottom of Jefferson’s bust when mint workers adapted the existing master hub.
The edge of the 1966 Jefferson nickel is plain or smooth, without reeding or edge lettering.
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. While Schlag did win numerous art contests and commissions throughout much of his life, the Jefferson nickel was his only coin design.
|Year Of Issue:||1966|
|Denomination:||Five Cents (USD)|
|Mint Mark:||None (Denver and San Francisco)|
|Alloy:||75% Copper, 25% Nickel|
|OBV Designer||Felix Schlag|
|REV Designer||Felix Schlag|
* * *