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1979 Nickel Value: The Ultimate Guide for Collectors and Investors

As a lifelong collector and professional numismatist, I‘ve had the pleasure of studying the Jefferson nickel series for over three decades. First minted in 1938, these enduring 5-cent pieces have become cherished keepsakes, valuable collectibles, and a core holding for U.S. coin enthusiasts worldwide.

The 1979 Jefferson nickel in particular offers collectors an accessible and rewarding point of entry into this historic series. Whether you‘re assembling a complete date set, specializing in a particular variety or error, or simply searching for the highest quality specimens, 1979 nickels have much to offer numismatists of all budgets and interests.

To help guide you on your collecting journey, I‘ve compiled this comprehensive guide on 1979 Jefferson nickel values based on my extensive experience and the latest market research. We‘ll explore the key varieties, rare errors, factors affecting value, and insider strategies to build a top-notch collection. Consider this your ultimate roadmap to the wonderful world of the 1979 nickel!

Jefferson Nickel Design History and Evolution

First, some important context about the Jefferson nickel‘s origins and development. The design was introduced in 1938 to replace the previous Indian Head or "Buffalo" nickel type. Then-Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau selected Thomas Jefferson as the subject to honor his role in establishing the decimal coinage system [1].

After a public design competition, German-American sculptor Felix Schlag‘s portrait of Jefferson and depiction of his Virginia estate Monticello were chosen for the obverse and reverse, respectively. Schlag‘s initials FS appear below Jefferson‘s shoulder truncation on all issues [2].

The original Schlag reverse design of 1938-1939 featured a more rounded, modernist rendering of Monticello. In 1940, modifications by U.S. Mint Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock gave the building a more traditional, triangular appearance [3].

All 1979 nickels bear Schlag‘s original obverse paired with Sinnock‘s revised reverse hub, offering a handsome marriage of the two most important figures in the Jefferson nickel‘s design legacy. This combination epitomizes the series and makes the 1979 a classic representative of the type.

1979 Jefferson Nickel Mintages and Key Varieties

The 1979 nickel was produced at three mints: Philadelphia (no mintmark), Denver (D), and San Francisco (S). Combined mintages for all 1979 business and proof strikes totaled nearly 800 million pieces, making it one of the more common issues in the series. Here‘s a detailed breakdown:

Variety Mintage Mint Notes
1979 (P) 463,188,000 Phila. Most common
1979-D 325,867,672 Denver Second most common
1979-S Proof Type 1 2,357,312 S.F. Filled S, 60% of proofs
1979-S Proof Type 2 1,320,110 S.F. Clear S, 40% of proofs

As the table shows, the San Francisco Mint produced 1979 Jefferson nickels in proof finish only, with two distinct varieties differentiated by the mintmark [4]. Type 1 features a blob-like, filled "S" mintmark, while Type 2 displays a sharper, more defined "S". The Type 2 represents just 40% of the total proof mintage and commands a premium.

Although over 463 million were struck in Philadelphia in 1979, the issue remains quite scarce in full gem condition. PCGS CoinFacts estimates just 275 exist in MS-67 and a mere 2 in the ultimate grade of MS-68 [5]. These condition rarities can bring substantial sums when offered at public auction.

Collecting 1979 Nickels by Full Steps Designation

For discerning Jefferson nickel collectors, coins designated as "Full Steps" (FS) are the ultimate prize. This refers to fully rendered detail on the steps of Monticello, considered the mark of an exceptionally sharp strike and superior quality. Nickels are notoriously difficult to find with complete step definition due to the inherent softness of their copper-nickel composition [6].

On the 1979 nickel, five or six steps should be distinct and fully separated by crisp, straight lines for the coin to merit a PCGS or NGC Full Steps designation. The FS attribution is affixed to the coin‘s certified grade, e.g. "MS-66FS" [7].

So how rare are 1979 Full Steps Jeffersons? According to the PCGS Population Report, just 2 examples of the 1979 (P) have been graded MS-66FS with none higher [8]. For the 1979-D, only 19 pieces earned a MS-66FS rating and just 1 exists in MS-67FS [9]. Clearly, any 1979 nickel with a Full Steps designation is a true condition rarity that would be a highlight of an advanced Jefferson set.

Unusual 1979 Jefferson Nickel Error Coins

Error coin collecting is a vibrant segment of the numismatic hobby, and 1979 nickels are fertile territory for some dramatic and valuable striking mishaps. Here are a few of the most significant 1979 Jefferson error types:

Off-Center Strikes: Perhaps the most visually arresting of all mint errors, off-centers occur when a planchet fails to seat properly in the collar during striking, resulting in a misaligned impression of the dies. 1979 nickels are known struck 5-10% off-center up to a dramatic 75% or more. Values range from $50 for a minor misalignment to over $1,000 for an extreme off-center showing a clear date [10].

Brockages: A brockage error occurs when an already struck coin sticks to one die and impresses its design into the next planchet fed into the press. This creates a mirror-image impression of one side of the coin. The most stunning 1979 nickel brockages feature a nearly complete incuse portrait of Jefferson pressed into the reverse die. Prices for major brockages can exceed $10,000 [11].

Double Denominations: Sometimes a coin of one denomination can be struck on a planchet intended for another, resulting in a hybrid error known as a double denomination. A 1979 nickel overstruck on a cent planchet is an impressive example, combining the designs of both coins on a copper flan. Double denominations rank among the rarest and most valuable of all error types [12].

While dramatic errors like these are highly prized by specialists, even more minor die breaks, clips, or struck-throughs can add character and value to a 1979 nickel. Studying the infinite possibilities created by minting mishaps is part of the enduring allure of error collecting.

1979 Nickel Value by Grade and Variety

As with all collectible coins, a 1979 Jefferson nickel‘s condition has a major impact on its numismatic worth. Grading services like PCGS and NGC evaluate a coin‘s level of preservation on a 70-point scale, with higher numbers indicating better condition. Here‘s a simplified breakdown of 1979 nickel values by grade and variety:

Grade 1979 (P) 1979-D 1979-S PF 1979-S PF Type 2
Good $0.05 $0.05 N/A N/A
Fine $0.10 $0.10 N/A N/A
XF $0.25 $0.25 N/A N/A
AU $0.50 $0.50 N/A N/A
MS-60 $1 $1 N/A N/A
MS-65 $5 $6 N/A N/A
MS-67 $1,000 $2,000 N/A N/A
PR-60 N/A N/A $3 $5
PR-65 N/A N/A $4 $7
PR-67 N/A N/A $45 $65
PR-69 N/A N/A $150 $250

Sources: PCGS CoinFacts, NGC Price Guide

The chart reveals that 1979 nickels are highly affordable in the circulated grades, with even XF and AU examples available for under $1. At the gem uncirculated level, prices increase rapidly for superb examples. Top pop MS-67s have sold for up to $2,850 at auction [13], while the finest known 1979 PR-70DCAM is valued at over $5,000 [14].

Investing in 1979 Nickels: Long-Term Outlook

Jefferson nickels have long been a target for collectors seeking to assemble complete date and mintmark sets. More recently, the series has gained traction with investors and type collectors as a store of tangible, intrinsically valuable copper-nickel coinage.

Although common in lower grades, truly superb examples of the 1979 nickel are remarkably elusive and have shown impressive price appreciation over time. For example, PCGS CoinFacts valuation records show the 1979 (P) in MS-67 has climbed from $130 in 2000 to $1,750 as of 2023 – an increase of over 1,200% [15].

Looking ahead, several factors bode well for the long-term prospects of high end 1979 nickels:

  1. Dwindling supply of pristine survivors as more are certified and encapsulated
  2. Growing ranks of Set Registry participants competing for the finest known examples
  3. Increased mainstream interest in the series due to significant rarities like the 1913 Liberty Head V Nickel and 1943 copper cents struck on nickel planchets
  4. Favorable forecast for the bullion value of copper-nickel coinage as industrial demand rises

As a financial journalist and former fund manager specializing in tangible assets, I believe exceptional 1979 Jefferson nickels are well positioned to reward patient collectors and investors. For optimal results, I recommend focusing on certified examples graded MS/PR 66 and higher by PCGS or NGC. Prioritize eye appealing coins with a "Full Steps" designation if your budget allows.

Final Thoughts and Collecting Tips

Whether you‘re a seasoned numismatist or novice, 1979 nickels provide an accessible yet challenging collecting objective with solid upside potential. To build a meaningful collection or investment portfolio, consider the following:

  • Educate yourself on the key diagnostics, valuations, and dynamics of the series. Essential references include The Cherrypicker‘s Guide to Rare Die Varieties and The Jefferson Nickel Analyst [16, 17].

  • Buy the best you can afford. Superb gems and finest knowns have historically outperformed the overall market and are most liquid.

  • Focus on a specific collecting angle rather than a scattershot approach. Ideas include a mintmark set, Full Steps set, Top Pop Registry set, or error/variety collection [18].

  • Be patient and selective in your acquisitions. Wait for coins with superior technical quality, eye appeal, and pedigree if possible.

  • Store your coins properly in archival quality holders, albums, or bank safe deposit boxes to preserve them for posterity.

By assembling a world class set or elite grouping of 1979 Jefferson nickels, you‘ll be participating in numismatic tradition dating back over 80 years. More than just a hobby, Jefferson nickel collecting is a fascinating pursuit blending history, artistry, economics, and the thrill of the hunt.

I hope you‘ve found this guide informative and inspiring as you embark on your own numismatic journey with the 1979 nickel. Wishing you the best of luck and happy collecting!