» 1961 Nickel Error List & Value

1961 Nickel Error List & Value

1961 Nickel Value

The Jefferson Nickel coin has been around for decades, ever since it was minted in 1938 to replace the old Buffalo half-dime and to commemorate Jefferson’s upcoming bicentennial in 1943. Every nickel coin is different, however, and the main way we differentiate between the various types of coins is by the year of their minting and their mint mark. So, today, let’s look at the 1961 Nickel and what makes it special.

1961 Nickel Value Chart

Mint mark Good Fine Extremely Fine Uncirculated
1961 “D” Nickel Value $0.05 – $0.10 $0.05 – $0.10 $0.05 – $0.10 $0.28 – $23
1961 “No Mint Mark” Nickel Value $0.05 – $0.10 $0.05 – $0.10 $0.05 – $0.10 $0.28 – $23
1961 “No Mint Mark” Nickel Proof Value $0.05 – $0.10 $0.05 – $0.10 $0.05 – $0.10 $3.30+
1961 Nickel Coins w/ Valuable Errors Up to $0.50 Up to $3 Up to $35 Up to $2,750

As Jefferson nickels are fairly common even to this day, the value of most such coins is quite modest and rarely exceeds their monetary face value of $0.05. There even are many 1961 nickel coins still in circulation today as the 75% copper & 25% nickel alloy used for these coins is quite durable.

What helps some 1961 nickel coins jump in value, therefore, is usually a combination of an extremely fine or better quality of detail and the potential presence of certain errors that occasionally happen during the coins’ minting.

As durable as nickels are, however, pretty much only uncirculated coins can have a good enough quality to be valuable today. Typically, these are the coins that have been grabbed by numismatists and other collectors as soon as they were released in 1961 and have therefore been preserved in a near-perfect condition.

On the other side of things, because the 75/25 copper/nickel alloy is so hard and durable, it’s also a bit difficult to work with during the minting process. This means that errors occurring in the minting process aren’t that uncommon with these coins compared to some others. In short – even though the average price of circulated nickels is low, it’s not that difficult to find nickels with valuable errors.

1961 “D” Nickel Value

1961 “D” Nickel Value
Credit: usacoinbook

The first and most common type of 1961 nickel coin you might encounter is the “D” mint mark 1961 nickel. As with any other US coin, the “D” mint mark here stands for “Denver” as the Denver Mint is the one that has produced the coin.

In the case of the 1961 nickel, the Denver Mint produced a very impressive grand total of 229,342,760 coins in a single year. These coins had the standard plain edge as previous Jefferson nickels and weighed the expected 5 grams with a 21.2 mm diameter.

If you are having trouble locating the mint mark on your coin, you should look for it on the reverse side of the coin. That is not the obverse that features Jefferson himself but the side that features the Monticello – Jefferson’s homestead in Virginia. The “D” mint mark should be on the right side of the building, right between it and the edge of the coin.

As you’d expect, because of the unprecedentedly high number of coins printed in Denver that year, these nickels aren’t worth that much – they are almost always valued at their monetary value of $0.05 and can only occasionally reach a price tag of $23 if they are uncirculated or if they have some particularly alluring manufacturing errors.

Additionally, if you find the volume of 229,342,760 impressive, it’s interesting to note that this was the first time in history the Denver Mint had produced that many Jefferson nickels in a single year. That number had been outdone only once before by the Philadelphia Mint in 1943 which produced 271,165,000 Jefferson nickels. That was the year of the ex-president’s bicentennial, however, hence the high number.

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Additionally, the 229+ million coins minted in Denver in 1961 weren’t a fluke either – they were the beginning of a new trend of mass-producing nickels. In 1962, the Denver Mint produced over 280 million coins while the Philadelphia mint also upped its production to just over 100 million.

In 1963, the Denver Mint made nearly 277 million Jefferson nickels, and in 1964 – right after JFK’s assassination – both the Denver and Philadelphia Mints made over 1 billion Jefferson nickels each – 1,787,297,160 in the case of the Denver Mint.

All those numbers are to say that, while the 1961 quantities of Jefferson nickels made in Denver are impressive and made this coin decisively “not rare”, it’s also not all that common compared to Jefferson nickels of later years. So, as long as the 1961 “D” nickel you’ve found is indeed of great visual quality and has some interesting specifics or errors, you can still get a good price for it.

1961 No Mint Mark Nickel Value

1961 No Mint Mark Nickel Value

If you see a coin with no mint mark and you’re new to numismatics, you may make the understandable mistake of thinking that it’s something extra special and rare or, maybe, an interesting error in the coin’s production. If you have some experience dealing with US coins, however, you probably know that most no-mint coins are actually just coins made by the Philadelphia Mint.

The reason for this seemingly confusing situation is that the Philadelphia Mint didn’t use to put any mint marks on most of the coins it minted before the early 1980s. So, the lack of a mint mark doesn’t mean anything particularly special, it’s just a kind of mint mark instead.

Aside from this small difference, 1961 nickels made in Philly are essentially the same as those made by the Denver Mint – they are 21.2 mm wide and 5 grams heavy, they have a plain edge, and the obverse and reverse sides of the coins bear the same designs made by Felix Schlag in 1938 – Jefferson’s head on the obverse and the Monticello on the reverse.

Also, as usual, the obverse side also features the words “In God We Trust” on the left of Jefferson’s face and “Liberty – 1961” to the right of it. On the reverse, the name “Monticello” is spelled out under the image of the building, the moto “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of many, one” is written above it, and “Five Cents” & “United States of America” are written at the bottom.

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So, aside from the missing “D” mint mark, there are no differences in the design. What is different, however, is the total mintage of the no-mark 1961 nickel, as the Philadelphia Mint only produced 76,668,244 nickels in 1961.

This isn’t really a low number, however, it only seems that way because the Denver Mint had made three times more coins. To put things into perspective, the Philadelphia Mint had also been increasing the number of minted nickels year after year – from 17,963,652 in 1958, to 28,397,291 and 57,107,602 in 1959 and 1960 respectively, and then up to 1,028,622,762 in 1964.

In other words, while the no-mark 1961 nickel is rarer than the “D” mark 1961 nickel, both are more or less equally rare compared to later Jefferson nickels and equally common compared to earlier variants of the coin.

So, just as with the “D” mint mark nickel, the price for most Philadelphia nickels is usually $0.05 to $0.10 for circulated coins, up to $23 for uncirculated ones, and higher only for those coins that are both in perfect condition and have certain rare errors.

1961 Nickel Proof Coin Value

1961 Nickel Proof Coin Value
Credit: pcgs

The third and less talked about the variant of the 1961 nickel is the proof coin nickel. Proof coins have been a staple in the numismatic world for a long time as their main purpose is – or is supposed to be – to exist as a standard for how a particular type of coin should look like and “proof” against fakes.

As such, proof coins are made with a much higher detail fidelity than ordinary coins. This means that minting proof coins is an entirely separate and more expensive process as it requires different and more intricate minting dies.

Naturally, the special status and higher quality of these proof coins have made them very valuable collectors’ items a long time ago which is why the US Mint is always producing a fair bit of extra proof coins of most coins when they mint something new. And the 1961 nickel is no exception.

The 1961 proof nickel has a mintage of 3,028,144 coins made that year – all from the Philadelphia Mint. This means that, like ordinary Philadelphia-made coins, the proof nickel doesn’t have a mint mark. It does have much greater detail and visual qualities, however, which sets it aside from all other 1961 nickels.

Other than that, all other features of the 1961 proof nickel are as you’d expect – the original design by Felix Schlag, the standard 75%/25% copper/nickel alloy, a plain edge, 21,2 mm diameter, 5 grams of weight, and a plain edge.

Still the mere quality difference and proof status of this variant of the coin are enough to bump up its price quite significantly – so much so that you can find proof nickels with no special errors that still cost $30+ when they would have only been worth their face value if they were ordinary coins. And, should you find a proof 1961 nickel with some interesting errors, those can easily be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

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1961 Nickel Grading

Grading a 1961 nickel is done the same as with any other coin – first, you need to identify the year and mint mark of the coin, then you assess its visual quality and how well-preserve it is, and, lastly, you look for certain specifics and manufacturing errors that may make the coin more interesting and unique.

Given the great quantity these coins were made in and the fact that they are still in circulation, ordinary 1961 nickels are rarely worth more than their face value. Uncirculated coins in mint condition, however, especially if they are proof coins, can be worth a fair bit more – sometimes in the range of hundreds or even thousands of dollars if they have some specific errors in them.

If you want a more visual presentation of what that might look like, here’s a good video to check out.

Lists of 1961 Nickel Errors

Because of how hard and durable the copper/nickel alloy of these coins is, errors during the production process aren’t all that uncommon. Here’s a good video that showcases some of them as well as a list of the most common mistakes to keep an eye out for:

1961 Nickel missing Monticello steps error

One especially rare and interesting error that’s unique to Jefferson nickels is when the steps on the Monticello building are outright missing. This error can easily fetch a very good price for the coin when it’s genuine and not just a case of wear and tear blurring out the steps.

1961 Nickel double die error

This error is exactly what it sounds like – the steel die has struck the coin twice on accident and now the design of the coin’s sides has a blurry or “doubled” look.

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1961 Nickel broad strike error

This error occurs when the coin hasn’t been properly placed in the retaining collar when struck by the die. As such, the coin has spread out further than the 21,2 mm expected from a regular nickel.

1961 Nickel with a ragged clipped planchet error

1961 Nickel with a ragged clipped planchet error
Credit: eBay

A clipped planchet is a common error in many coins –  it’s what happens when a part of the coin’s edge has been cut or chipped off during the striking process.

1961 Nickel FAQ

Does the 1961 Nickel have any silver in it?

A genuine 1961 nickel shouldn’t have any silver in it – the US Mint had already phased out silver from these coins by 1961 to dissuade people from hoarding them for their melting value.

What 1961 nickels are worth keeping?

1961 nickels are only really ever worth keeping if they are in an excellent uncirculated condition – if these coins have been in open circulation, they have more than enough wear and tear to bring their value down to ~$0.05. If you have an uncirculated nickel, however, especially if there are some interesting errors in it, that is definitely worth holding on to.

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