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1961 Nickel Value: Varieties & Error List

What’s a 1961 five-cent coin worth?

Simply that, five cents. But that’s only true if you are thinking of its purchasing value.

If, instead, you are considering the specs and features that make it unique in the eyes of coin collectors, the 1961 Jefferson nickel is worth up to $23,000 in high mint state grades.

That figure sounds attractive, right? Then you’ll like what you read in the rest of the article, including the coin’s history, its distinctive design details, and the features that add value to a 1961 nickel.

Let’s begin with a quick peer into the Jefferson Nickel history.

1961 Jefferson Nickel History and Design Details

1961 Nickel

The Jefferson Nickel series turns 85 years old in 2023. Despite the modifications and reverse side changes along the way, the third U.S. President’s face still adorns the obverse side of the nickel.

And there’s a deep political and artistic history to this enduring design.

First off, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt took up his second term in office in 1937, the law had it that a design would stay on a coin for at least 25 years. 1937 happened to be the year the Buffalo Nickel was hitting 25.

Although the Lincoln penny series was already 28 and a candidate for change, the reinstalled President knew he would have to deal with public displeasure if he changed the popular Lincoln design on the penny.

So, Roosevelt invoked his Democrat political affiliation to honor the pioneer of his party and a champion of public good, Thomas Jefferson. He authorized engraving the former statesman’s face on the new nickel design.

A German migrant Felix Schlag, was the lucky artist chosen to design the obverse and reverse sides of the nickel. He beat other 389 competitors for the noble task.

On the obverse side, Schlag engraved Jefferson’s bust in a left-facing posture. The inscription, “IN GOD WE TRUST”, appears on the front of the President’s face, and “LIBERTY♦1961” is behind his back.

On the reverse side, Schlag designed the celebrated Jefferson’s mansion, Monticello, including its name below the design. The U.S. motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” curves along the top edge, while “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” arcs on the lower edge and “FIVE CENTS” just above it. A tiny “D” mint mark is on the right beside the Monticello for the Denver variety.

Together with these key features, the 1961 Jefferson nickel specifications and mint location varieties form the basis on which coin collectors and numismatics assign value to the coin.

1961 Jefferson Nickel Specifications

People often speak of the 1961 silver nickel. But, is a 1961 nickel silver?

As you can tell from the coin’s specifications, the 1961 nickel metal composition gives it a silvery appearance. But the coin has no silver.

  • Coin series: Jefferson Nickels
  • Metal composition: Nickel 25%, Copper 75%
  • Total Mintage: 306,011,004
  • Designer: Felix Schlag
  • Weight: 5g
  • Diameter: 21.2mm
  • Edge: Plain
  • Face value: $0.05 (5 cents)
  • Melt value: $0.05

1961 Jefferson Nickel Mintage and Varieties

Only the Philadelphia and Denver mints struck the 1961 nickel, creating the ‘no mint mark’ and the “D” varieties. The Denver mintage counts almost 3 times more than the Philadelphia mintage.

However, the Philadelphia Mint also struck some Proof 1961 Jefferson nickels. These count as a separate variety of this year’s nickel.

  • Philadelphia mint (no mint mark) – 76,668,244.
  • Philadelphia mint (Proof) – 3,028,144.
  • Denver mint (“D” mint mark) – 229,342,760.

From details in the rest of the article, you’ll discover that the coin market places more value on the “D” variety than the “No mint mark” variety, including the Proof coins. Let’s talk about that in greater detail.

What are the Most Valuable 1961 Nickels?

If you are looking to make a premium sale, these are the most valuable 1961 Jefferson Nickels:

  • The Denver “D” mint mark variety in MS64 and MS65 grades and Full Steps(FS) designation. The Full Steps is assigned to well-struck Jefferson nickels that show 5 or 6 fully defined and clearly separated steps of the Monticello.
  • The Philadelphia “no mint mark” variety in MS66FS grading.
  • The 1961 Proof nickels with a PF69DCAM grading. You can read about Proof coin grading designations in our Complete Coin Grading Guide.
  • The 1961 nickels with rare mint errors, especially the off-center and the wrong planchet errors.

Before getting to the nitty-gritty of the most valuable 1961 nickels, let’s begin with the basics by answering the question, how much is a 1961 nickel worth?

1961 Jefferson Nickel Value Chart
Mint Mark Circulated

(Good: 4 – Extra Fine: 40 grading)

About Uncirculated
1961 no mint mark Nickel $0.10 $0.10-$0.20 $0.25-$25.00 $45-$375
Full Steps (FS) $725-$3,000 $5000
1961 Proof (PF) Nickel $10-$15 $20-$100
Proof Cameo (PFCAM) $15-$20 $25-$175
Proof Deep Cameo (PFDCAM) $40-$55 $75-$1,250
1961 D Nickel $0.10 $0.10-$0.20 $0.25 – $0.35 $650-$2,750
Full Steps $8,500

(-) means there aren’t (enough) coins for price estimates in that category.

1. 1961 Nickel No Mint Mark Value

1961 Nickel No Mint Mark

The 1961 no mint mark Jefferson nickel is a readily available coin in circulated condition but not in high mint state grades above MS66.

Coin grading services record only a few hundred of 1961 no mint mark nickels graded MS66, and the coin is even rarer in higher mint state grades.

In the circulated condition, a 1961 no mint mark nickel value ranges around $0.10-$0.20, a rather low price. However, in the uncirculated condition, a 1961 nickel no mint mark can go from a low of $0.25 to a high of $375, increasing in value as the grading goes up.

1961 no mint mark nickels with the FS designation are even rarer in any grade. However, you will fetch between $725 and $5,000 for FS 1961 nickels in high grades on the open coin market. This price also increases with the mint state grading.

As of this writing, the highest-valued 1961 no mint mark nickel is an MS66FS that sold for $10,800 at Stack’s Bowers in 2022. The coin is among the finest Gems in this year’s Philadelphia nickels.

So far, this is also the only five-figure sale for the 1961 Philadelphia nickels recorded by grading services. Other high-value 1961 nickels have four-figure price records. The table below has the top five highest sales for this 1961 nickel variety.

1961 Nickel “No Mint Mark” Highest Sales
Grading Value Sale Year Firm
MS66FS $10,800 2022 Stack’s Bowers
MS66FS $9,000 2023 Heritage Auctions
MS67 $6,325 2008 Heritage Auctions
MS65 $5,118 2006 David Lawrence RC
MS65 $3,738 2006 Heritage Auctions

Notice that the top two highest sales for this variety are quite recent, suggesting the 1961 nickel is still well-valued by coin collectors and numismatics today.

Current market trends give the same impression. In the past three years, sales for the 1961 Jefferson nickel record more four-figure sales than three-figure sales, and only a single double-figure sale.

2. 1961 Proof Nickel Value

1961 Proof Nickel

The Philadelphia Mint struck a good number of 1961 Jefferson Proof nickels for coin collectors. So, you’ll only find these in their pristine condition.

The 1961 proof nickel value ranges around $10-$100 for coins in regular Proof (PF/PR) strike.

Proof coins with a CAMEO (CAM) finish sell for more, between $15 and $175, depending on the coin grading. Those with a ULTRACAMEO/DEEPCAMEO (DCAM) finish are rarer and command higher prices, $40-$1,250, as the grades go up.

To date, the highest 1961 proof nickel value is for a PR69DCAM coin that sold for $3,408 at the Legend Rare Coin Auctions in 2021.

1961 Proof Nickels record higher prices in the PR69DCAM grading. Although there are a few with a PR70 grading, they have sold poorly for 2-digit prices.

A few other 1961 Proof nickels have a four-figure value, including the 5 highest-valued coins for this variety shown in the table.

1961 Proof Nickel Highest Sales
Grading Value Sale Year Firm
PR69DCAM $3,408 2021 Legend Rare Coin Auctions
PR69DCAM $3,360 2020 Heritage Auctions
PR69DCAM $3,066 2022 Heritage Auctions
PR69 $2,760 2010 Heritage Auctions
PR69DCAM $2,400 2021 Stack’s Bowers

3. 1961 D Nickel Value

1961 D Nickel

Like their Philadelphia counterparts, the 1961 D Jefferson nickels sell for less than a dollar in circulated and uncirculated low grades, around $0.10-$0.35.

In higher uncirculated grades (MS66-69), the 1961 D nickel value ranges around $650-$2,750. With the FS designation, 1961 nickels can command even better prices, up to $8,500.

In the open coin market, 1961 D nickels will surprise you with premium five-figure sales. So far, the highest-valued 1961 D nickel sold for $23,000 at Bowers & Merena in 2004. Surprisingly, the nickel has an MS65 grade, outdoing those with higher grades (MS66-67).

The table below shows the 4 five-figure sales of the 1961 D nickel to date.

1961 D Nickel Highest Sales
Grading Value Sale Year Firm
MS65 $23,000 2004 Bowers & Merena
MS64+FS $16,450 2014 Stack’s Bowers
MS65FS $14,688 2020 Legend Rare Coin Auctions
MS64 $11,163 2013 Heritage Auctions

The 1961 D nickel has a good number of other four-digit prices. However, three- and two-digit sales are more common for this 1961 nickel variety.

Valuable 1961 Nickel errors

It’s no secret that quality control was lacking quite a bit when the mints struck the 1961 nickel. This resulted in several common and rare mint errors. Surprisingly, even some 1961 Proof nickels left the Philadelphia Mint as error coins.

Coin collectors find these errors intriguing and will pay a premium for your 1961 nickel if it has one of the errors.

Following are some of the rarest and most valued 1961 nickel errors.

1. 1961 Proof Nickel Off-Center Strike Error

1961 Proof Nickel Off-Center Strike Error

An off-center error presents when the planchet is uncentered between the dies. This results in a coin with only part of the design details.

Off-center strike errors appear common on the 1961 Proof nickel, increasing the coin’s value by thousands of dollars.

Below are three cases where a 1961 Proof nickel presents an off-center strike error and the auction price realized for each coin.

Value of 1961 Proof Nickels with Off-center Error
Grading % Off-center Value Sale Year Firm
PR66 30% $4,025 2008 Heritage Auctions
PR66 30% $3,737 2010 Heritage Auctions
PR66 30% $3,450 2009 Heritage Auctions

For all three cases, powder-blue, gold, orange, golden-brown, or ice-blue toning appears on the coins, adding to their visual appeal.

2. 1961 Nickel Double Struck Error

1961 Nickel Double Struck Error

A 1961 nickel with a double struck error gets a second strike because it did not eject from the dies after the first strike. This makes some design details appear in twos on the coin surface.

A double struck error on a 1961 nickel is good news for coin collectors. That’s because it raises the coin value from a few dollars to hundreds of them. One of those sold for $345 at the Heritage Auctions in 2009. The second strike on this nickel sits 50% off-center.

Interestingly, the coin was a circulated piece in AU58 grading, but its smooth and shiny gray-cream toning adds to its eye appeal.

3. 1961 Nickels Struck on Wrong Planchets

1961 Nickel Struck on Wrong Planchet Error

Coins struck on wrong planchets are a recurring error on the 1961 nickel. It appears that coin collectors have a special liking for these error coins, as their value shoots from a few cents to hundreds or thousands of dollars.

In MS64 grading, a regular 1961 D nickel value is around $0.25-$0.35. However, a 1961 D nickel in this grade struck on a Philippine 10 Centavos planchet sold for $1,175 at the Heritage Auctions in 2016.

Other examples of the 1961 nickel struck on wrong planchets that sold for hundreds of dollars are listed below.

Value of 1961 Nickels Struck on Wrong Planchet
Grading Error Details Value Sale Year Firm
MS60 Struck on a Dime planchet $747 2006 Heritage Auctions
MS63 Struck on a Cent planchet $576 2022 Heritage Auctions
MS64 Struck on a Cent planchet $575 2012 Heritage Auctions
MS62 Struck on a Philippines Blank $504 2022 Heritage Auctions
MS62 Struck on a Philippine 10C planchet $489 2008 Heritage Auctions

4. Other Valuable 1961 Nickel Errors

1961 Nickel Straight Clip Planchet Error

Grading services have recorded some rather rare errors on the 1961 Jefferson Nickels. These errors raise the value of the nickel by hundreds of dollars. Here are a few examples.

  • 1961 D Nickel with obverse struck thru and retained staple error: Sold for $345 in 2010 at the Heritage Auctions.
  • 1961 D Nickel with clamshell spit on 25% straight clip planchet: Sold for $126 at the Heritage Auctions in 2010.

You’ll also find other rare but less valuable 1961 nickel errors with two-digit sales. For example, in 2021, a 1961 D nickel on a split planchet before striking sold for $80 at the Heritage Auctions.

Final Thought

Old 1961 Jefferson nickels can disappoint with a few cent prices in circulated or low-grade uncirculated conditions.

However, if your 1961 nickel has a high MS grading, bears the Full Steps designation, or has rare mint errors, you could sell it for hundreds or thousands of dollars, even five-figure values.

Just ensure you get your 1961 nickel graded by a reputable grading service. That way, you won’t expect the bigger bucks from a low-value coin.

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