Why 1942-D Jefferson Nickels Are Underrated

With all the fresh interest in nickels thanks to the 2004 and 2005 special designs, Jefferson nickels should be taken again and more seriously. What we learn about the 1942-D may surprise us. History has seen little serious study of Jefferson nickels. The 1950-D was the best, the 1939-D was the key in Mint State, and the 1939-S was superior. That was all you needed to know about Jefferson nickels.

Other intriguing Jefferson nickels include the 1938-D and 1938-S, which were low-mintage but heavily conserved as the first year of circulation. From 1942-1945, special war coins comprised 56 percent copper, 35 percent silver, and 9 percent manganese.

There have always been fascinating Jefferson nickels. It's only that the interesting Jefferson nickels weren't expensive or rare. It's classic example of how a date or two can sneak past collectors and dealers. Most Jefferson nickel radars are misaligned.

Jefferson nickels like the 1942-D may have gone under radar screens throughout the years. This 1942-D was made before the October release of the special war-time composition Jefferson nickels. If you were collecting nickels in 1942, the new composition coins with the huge mintmark over Monticello would have been more fascinating than the 1942-D.

The 1942-D could have raised eyebrows with its 13,938,000 mintage, but not as many as we assume. The Jefferson nickel had only been around since 1938, and four others had a smaller mintage. Being the fifth-lowest mintage Jefferson nickel in five years discouraged collectors and dealers from saving extras. Over time, there would be many lower-mintage dates. There are so many that the 1942-D is not among the 10 lowest-mintage Jefferson nickels.

We learned that while not challenging in circulated grades, the 1942-D was harder in Mint State. Mint State was hard. Since the late 1990s, Jefferson nickel values have moved, with the 1942-D at $28 in MS-60 and the MS-65 at $65. That doesn't bring the 1942-D closer to the 1939-D, but it keeps it in second place for Jefferson nickel prices, ahead of the 1939-S.

The 1942-D has been graded MS-65 or better 340 times by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, compared to 535 for the 1939-D and 291 for the 1939-S. The 1942-D has shown 204 times in MS-65 or better at Professional Coin Grading Service, compared to 750 for the 1939-D and 450 for the 1939-S. The 1942-D is lower than it should be because it made no economic sense to grade one, no matter how nice, for many years. That may alter over time, revealing how rare the 1942-D is in top grades compared to Jefferson nickel key dates.

The 1942-D is one of the highest-grade Jefferson nickels and may improve over time.

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