The U.S. Mint struck more than 302 million Jefferson nickels in 1961, the highest mintage since 1943! But although this old coin was only worth five cents back then, it’s worth at least four times more nowadays.
But the 1961 nickel value can be much higher, especially when coins are in uncirculated (MS-60 grade or higher) condition. This guide will delve into the modern value of this coin, ensuring that you buy and sell 1961 Jefferson nickels at the right price!
1961 Jefferson Nickel Value Chart
|1961-P Nickel FS||$1,620||$3,750||$11,200|
|1961-D Nickel FS||$6,000||$15,000||/|
|1961-P Proof Nickel||$13.5||$21.6||$74|
|1961-P Proof Nickel CAM||$33.75||$54||$162|
|1961-P Proof Nickel DCAM||$228||$390||$3,500|
1961 Jefferson Nickel: History
The Jefferson nickel design was introduced in 1938, making it more than 20 years old in 1961.
While the design changed slightly during World War II (primarily the location of the mint mark), the 1961 Jefferson nickel was essentially identical to the original 1938 Jefferson nickel.
Notably, this five-cent coin is one of the most common vintage nickels available to collectors, as the U.S. Mint struck more nickels in 1961 than it had in the previous decades.
Before 1961, the last time the U.S. Mint struck more than 302 million nickels was in 1943 (when it struck more than 390 million nickels). But while the 1961 Jefferson nickel might not be a rare collector’s item, some pieces are far harder to find than others (and therefore more valuable).
1961 Jefferson Nickel: Design
The design for the 1961 Jefferson nickel was created by Felix Schlag in the late 1930s.
Schlag was a sculptor who had recently immigrated to the United States from Germany. He submitted his vision for the new Jefferson nickel, and the U.S. Mint almost accepted it as-is. One of the biggest changes they demanded was the removal of a tropical-looking palm tree that stood outside the image of Monticello.
Still, the original design Schlag submitted to the U.S. Mint was virtually unchanged, and this image appeared on all five-cent nickels struck by the U.S. Mint between 1938 and 2004. In 1966, the design changed slightly to include Schlag’s initials (FS), but you won’t find these initials on the 1961 Jefferson nickel.
1961 Jefferson Nickel Obverse
You can identify a 1961 Jefferson nickel via the following design elements on its obverse (front) side:
- The year date (1961) on the right side of the coin (vertical and below the legend)
- The legend “LIBERTY” on the right side of the coin (vertical and separated from the year date by a star)
- The motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the left side of the coin, vertical
- The device (raised image) of Thomas Jefferson, face in profile facing left
1961 Jefferson Nickel Reverse
You can identify a 1961 Jefferson nickel via the following design elements on its reverse (back) side:
- In the center of the coin, the raised image (device) of Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello
- “MONTICELLO” beneath the raised steps leading to the plantation house
- The motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” at the top of the coin
- The coin denomination “FIVE CENTS” beneath “MONTICELLO”
- At the bottom of the coin, the issuing nation “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” (beneath the coin denomination)
- The mint mark (only on 1961-D nickels) to the far right, beside the device of Monticello
1961 Jefferson Nickel: Features and Specifications
The 1961 Jefferson nickel varies in several ways.
For example, some of these five-cent coins have complete steps leading up to Monticello (called Full Step nickels). Naturally, coin grade (condition) and strike type (proof versus regular) also differentiate 1961 Jefferson nickels.
But there are a handful of characteristics that all 1961 Jefferson nickels share, regardless of their strike type and origin (Philadelphia or Denver Mint). These features and specifications include coin weight, composition, and size.
All 1961 Jefferson nickels:
- Are 25% nickel and 75% copper
- Weigh about 0.18 ounces (5 grams)
- Are about 0.83 inches (21.2 millimeters) in diameter
- Have plain (smooth) edges
Still, when determining the value of a 1961 Jefferson nickel, it’s far more worthwhile to consider each coin’s differences than its similarities. After all, the differences in coin grade, strike type, and mintage significantly impact the 1961 nickel’s value.
How Much Is a 1961 Jefferson Nickel Worth?
According to the CPG values derived from Greysheet, a 1961 No Mint Mark Jefferson nickel in circulated condition is worth $0.20. It can be worth between $0.21 and $1,620 (or more) in uncirculated condition.
1961 Jefferson Nickel: Value Comparison
All 1961 Jefferson nickels were worth $0.05 when they were initially released, but nowadays, they’re worth far more. In fact, nearly all of these nickels are worth at least four times their original denomination ($0.20). But some are worth significantly more.
But what influences a 1961 Jefferson nickel’s value?
Several factors impact the estimated value of one of these five-cent coins:
- Coin condition (PCGS or NGC grade)
- Rarity (estimated surviving population)
- Design (the presence or absence of the Full Step reverse design)
- Strike type (regular or proof)
By taking these factors into account, you can determine how much your 1961 Jefferson nickels are worth. Naturally, you’ll want to submit your coins to a reputable grading service to determine their grade and confirm whether they’re Full Step (FS) nickels.
1961-P No Mint Mark Jefferson Nickel Value
Does your 1961 Jefferson nickel have a mint mark? If not, you can feel confident it was struck at the Philadelphia Mint!
The Philadelphia Mint struck about 74.64 million for circulation nickels in 1961, most of which are still around today. But because these coins entered circulation, few retain their original Full Step design (seen on the coin’s reverse).
Consequently, a 1961-P Jefferson nickel (also called the 1961 No Mint Mark nickel) with the Full Step reverse is worth far more than a non-FS nickel. That said, non-FS 1961 No Mint Mark nickels are still worth more than five cents.
For example, a 1961-P Jefferson nickel in good condition (G-4) or in about uncirculated condition (AU-50) has an estimated value of $0.20. One in uncirculated condition (MS-60 grade or higher) is worth between $0.21 (MS-60) and $1,620 (MS-67).
The price difference between an MS-66 and an MS-67 1961 No Mint Mark Jefferson nickel is quite steep. An MS-66 example is worth about $40.50, more than a thousand dollars less than an MS-67 one. This price difference is the result of increased rarity, as MS-67 1961-P nickels are exceptionally rare (potentially less than 10 in existence).
The Full Step (FS) 1961 No Mint Mark Jefferson nickel is worth more than the non-FS coin. It’s also only available in uncirculated condition, as heavily circulated nickels tend to lose the finer details of their design, including the five to six steps leading up to Monticello.
An FS 1961-P No Mint Mark nickel is worth about $1,620 in MS-64 condition, but it can sell for $11,200 or more in MS-66 condition. While millions of non-FS 1961 Jefferson nickels exist today, only about 8,000 FS 1961-P nickels are believed to be left.
You’ll find that all Full Step 1961 nickels have higher comparative values than their non-FS counterparts, regardless of where they were minted.
1961-D Jefferson Nickel Value
If you see a small capital letter “D” on the reverse side of your 1961 Jefferson nickel (right of Monticello), you have a 1961-D nickel. This five-cent coin was struck at the Denver Mint, which produced more than 229 million nickels in 1961.
Most of these coins are non-FS, with only about 1,500 being Full Step pieces. As you might imagine, this makes non-FS 1961-D Jefferson nickels far less valuable than Full Step ones.
A non-FS 1961-D nickel in good or about uncirculated condition (G-4 to AU-50) is worth about $0.20. In uncirculated condition, this coin has an estimated value ranging between $0.21 (MS-60) and $4,380 (MS-67).
Because the 1961-D Jefferson nickel was more widely circulated than the 1961 No Mint Mark nickel, it’s challenging to find one with a grade of MS-65 or higher. For this reason, higher-grade 1961-D nickels have a higher value than their No Mint Mark counterparts.
That said, the Full Step (FS) variety is more valuable.
Like the Full Step 1961 No Mint Mark Jefferson nickel, the FS 1961-D Jefferson nickel is always in uncirculated condition. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t retain the Full Step design!
An FS 1961-D nickel is worth $6,000 in MS-64 condition. It can sell for upwards of $15,000 in MS-65 condition. No other 1961 nickel is worth more than an MS-65 FS 1961-D Jefferson nickel, making it a valuable find that could significantly boost the overall value of your coin collection.
1961-P Proof Jefferson Nickel Value
Proof coins are struck for collectors, with few ever entering circulation. As such, proof coins are primarily found in uncirculated condition.
You might assume that this higher coin grade makes proof coins more valuable than regular strike ones. However, high-grade proof-strike nickels are far more common than high-grade regular-strike ones. Consequently, proof-strike 1961 Jefferson nickels tend to be worth far less than regular-strike nickels of the same grade.
When evaluating the worth of a 1961-P proof-strike Jefferson nickel, it’s crucial to consider the cameo effect. After all, the absence or presence of a cameo or deep cameo effect can significantly impact the value of these proof-strike coins.
There are about 1.7 million non-cameo 1961-P nickels, which are worth between $0.40 (PR-60) and $74 (PR-69). Those with a cameo or deep cameo effect are worth slightly more.
The cameo effect is one typically only found in proof-strike coins.
It refers to an exaggerated tonal difference between the coin’s field (background) and raised portions. In cameo coins, the raised portions tend to be a slightly lighter shade than the field, but this effect is far more noticeable in deep cameo coins.
A cameo 1961-P proof-strike nickel is worth between $2.65 (PR-65) and $162 (PR-69). While this value range is greater than those of non-cameo proof nickels from 1961, it’s lower than that of deep cameo 1961 nickels.
Deep cameo proof-strike nickels from 1961 often have a two-tone appearance, with an almost black field (background) that contrasts with the frosted raised portions. These coins are far rarer than non-cameo and cameo proof-strike nickels, which is one of the reasons they’re more valuable.
A deep cameo 1961-P proof-strike nickel is worth between $33.75 (PR-65) and $3,500 (PR-69). If you’re fortunate enough to find a PR-70 deep cameo proof-strike nickel from 1961, you could sell it for a small fortune!
1961 Jefferson Nickel: Rare Errors
The U.S. Mint does everything it can to ensure that 100% of the coins it produces are error-free and ready for circulation or collection. But mistakes can (and do) happen, leading to the creation of rare error coins.
These coins are often identified and removed by U.S. Mint staff, with few making it into circulation. Because error coins are comparatively rare, they can sell for premium prices at auction.
Coin collectors might want to seek out 1961 Jefferson nickel error coins to make their collections more valuable and unique! But which error coins should you look for?
When it comes to 1961 Jefferson nickels, there are two types of errors to focus on:
- The off-center error, and
- The wrong planchet error
Each of these types of error coins has a distinct value range. Let’s discuss how much you can expect to spend on one of these 1961 error nickels.
1961 Jefferson Nickel Off-Center Error
When a coin planchet (also called a blank) isn’t perfectly centered between coin dies during the striking process, the coin design can end up off-center. Off-center error coins are easy to identify, featuring a blank smooth portion (the original coin planchet) and a partial design.
Off-center error coins are categorized via off-center percentage. For example, if a coin was slightly off-center during the striking process, it might be missing about 10% of its design. This makes it a 10% off-center error coin.
The most valuable off-center error coins are those with higher percentages, though these rarely show the year date, making them challenging to grade and value. Many 1961 Jefferson nickels with the off-center error sell for thousands of dollars at auction.
For example, a PR-66 30% off-center 1961-P proof-strike Jefferson nickel sold for $4,025 in 2008. Few other 1961 Jefferson error nickels sell for as much as off-center coins.
This might be because the off-center 1961 nickel is a rare coin.
1961 Jefferson Nickel Wrong Planchet Error
Coin planchets are made of a wide variety of metal alloys, each specifically suited to a coin type. But what happens when a penny planchet ends up between nickel coin dies? Well, you get a wrong planchet error coin!
Wrong planchet error nickels from 1961 can be far more valuable than non-error nickels from the same year. These coins can sell for hundreds of dollars, though some have sold at auction for more than $1,000.
A great example is the 1961-D nickel struck on a 10-centavos planchet. This error coin sold for $1,175 in 2016.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have a few lingering questions about the 1961 Jefferson nickel? If so, check out the frequently asked questions below!
What’s the Rarest 1961 Jefferson Nickel?
In terms of mintage numbers, the rarest 1961 Jefferson nickel is the 1961 Proof-Strike Jefferson nickel. The Philadelphia Mint only produced about 3 million of these coins, and only about 175,000 Deep Cameo nickels exist (making them the rarest proof-strike 1961 nickels).
But in terms of for-circulation (regular strike) 1961 nickels, the rarest is the 1961-D Full Step Jefferson nickel. According to PCGS, only about 1,500 of these coins exist today.
How Many 1961 Jefferson Nickels Exist?
PCGS coin survival estimates put the current number of surviving 1961 Jefferson nickels (regular strike) at about 245 million. That’s about 81% of the total number of regular strike nickels produced in 1961.
About 2.425 million proof-strike 1961 Jefferson nickels exist today, about 80% of all the proof nickels struck in 1961.
What’s the Auction Record for the 1961 Jefferson Nickel?
The most ever spent at auction for a non-error 1961 Jefferson nickel is $23,000. This sum was paid in 2004 for an MS-65 1961-D Full Step Jefferson nickel.
1961 Nickel Value: Final Thoughts
The 1961 nickel value varies between $0.20 and $15,000, depending on the mint mark (aka rarity), coin grade, and strike type.
The most valuable nickel from 1961 is the 1961-D Full Step Jefferson nickel in MS-65 condition. Although millions of 1961-D Jefferson nickels exist, only about 1,500 are considered Full Step pieces, making them the rarest 1961 nickels.
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