Jefferson nickels often get a bad wrap… They’re too frequently dubbed a sleeper series because the common numismatic perception is that they offer little to excite collectors and thus see relatively sparse market activity — at least far less than other series such as Lincoln cents and Washington quarters. But there’s plenty to enjoy about the Jefferson nickel series, if given the chance. One of the great attractions of the Jefferson series, which debuted in 1938, is the 1939-D nickel.
An oft-heralded semi-key with a mintage of 3,514,000, the 1939-D boasts the second-lowest production figure of the series among all regular-issue circulation issues. Many circulated examples trade for $7 to $15, but in Full Steps Mint State grades this coin becomes a beast. At the Gem level, the 1939-D with Full Steps designation trades for $500 and up. The record price of $26,400 was paid at a 2019 Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction for an example graded by Professional Coin Grading Service as MS68FS.
While most 1939-D Jefferson nickels presumably reside in coin collections, dealer inventories, or other safe places of numismatic harbor, it is possible to locate the 1939-D nickel in “the wild.” Circulation finds still occur from time to time as many folks outside the hobby aren’t aware of the rarity of the 1939-D Jefferson nickel, which appears as a normal coin to many non-numismatist individuals. In fact, that’s one of the many beauties of this series: it’s still possible to assemble a complete business-strike set of Jefferson nickels minted from 1938 through 1964 directly from circulation!