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1942 Jefferson Nickel Proof

Proof coins are struck to satisfy the needs of a very particular coin user.  Only those individuals seeking a perfectly struck, brilliantly mirrored finish would appreciate the attention to detail and fine results the U.S. Mint have producing with regularity since 1936.  The eruption of war in Europe, and later the United State involvement in 1941, would lead to the suspension of proof coin production, giving collectors a true rarity for an otherwise plentiful Jefferson Nickel coin series.

At the time, all proof coins were produced in America’s first mint, in Philadelphia.  The coins were especially struck specimens, intended only for collectors.  Mint employees started with hand picked master dies, worked over to bring out full detail in every coin.  Also specially selected were the planchets, or coin blanks, that the dies pressed the design into to make a completed coin.  Instead of a single pass, that is, one die punch for the obverse, or front, and reverse, or back of the coin, the proof specimens were struck twice, in order to ensure that the design was in full relief and detail for collectors. There is however, no doubled die effect, as the exacting tolerances produce doubling only visible under high magnification.

When the United States entered the war in 1941, officials soon realized that the high demand for the element nickel, Ni, would soon deplete the available stocks of the rare metal, as it is heavily used in military production.  In response, the 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel was changed to 56 percent copper,  35 percent silver and 9 percent manganese.  This made the coin softer, and strike in higher detail.  In 1942 the new composition nickels went out for circulation.

1942 Jefferson proof nickels were also minted for collectors, but only in very limited numbers.  At a mintage of only 27,600 coins, it is a significantly rarer coin of the next available proof, in 1950, with a mintage of over 50,000.  Additionally, because proof production was suspended after 1942, it remains the only proof coin available for the ‘war era’ Jefferson nickels, making it sought after indeed.

Because the change from copper-nickel to war time silver alloy was enacted mid-year, both copper-nickel and silver alloy proofs were also struck.  Mintages for the pre-war 1942 proofs were similar to the war time composition, and both command prices around $100.00 in MS-65 or above.  Error coins, possibly created because of the haste required for the changeover.

Collecting the proof series of Jefferson coins can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience.  The earlier examples of Jefferson nickels, like the 1942 war composition nickel, command prices well within the budgets of modest collectors.  Particularity in lower grades, the availability and the fact that the coin is still in production today, keep prices low.  Investing in a Jefferson , if kept correctly, is always been a solid investment for a numismatist’s future.


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