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New to collecting...

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Hi, I'm very new to coin collecting and am currently pursuing two different collecting goals. I am trying to get a set of most of the more common Morgans (until I can afford more), but most importantly am working on an uncirculated set of Jefferson Nickels.


I decided to put Jefferson's first because I fell in love with them while completing an entire circulated set by going to the bank and getting rolls and rolls of circulated Jeffersons a few times a week. I estimate I got the entire circulated set by looking through approximately $3000-$5000 in Jefferson nickels. That took a lot of rerolling of coins! I was able to find the 1939d, 1950d, and all the silver nickels plus another 30 or 40 silver nickels I have in a jar. Enough of my boring background, I just have a few questions about uncirculated Jefferson nickels.


I recently bought a nice looking 1939d jefferson nickel that the seller said was uncirculated and it certainly does look very nice, but there are only 1-2 steps noticable. Is this fairly common with the older jeffersons having only 1-2 steps or is there a better chance that it might just be AU. I really can't distinguish very well between a nice AU and an MS coin yet.


Also, I was thinking of bidding on this jefferson nickel on ebay but am not sure if it really is MS. Just looking for a description of why or why not the coin is MS. I think that would help me a lot in the future realizing what is MS or what is AU.

(I couldn't get the picture to paste here for some reason, so i attached the url of the auction on ebay).



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Hello CoinMike, and Welcome to our friendly little neighborhood 893applaud-thumb.gif!


It is indeed common for the steps on a Jefferson nickel to be mush and undistinguished. If you consider the obverse of the coin, you will notice that the highest area is near the center of Jefferson's portrait - which happens to be directly across from the steps and central area of Monticello on the reverse. Both sides of the coin compete for a finite amount of metal planchet, so since there's not quite enough metal to fill the dies on both sides at once, usually once side or the other suffers for it, and displays a poor strike.


This was my first set as well, and I stil have my original Jefferson nickel set from about 1977 when I first started collecting. I also still have my BU set that I complete some ten or twelve years ago.


Stay around for awhile!!



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Hi, Mike! You'll find that the people, here, are an infinite source of knowledge, but don't take my word for it because I'm crazy.



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Welcome CoinMike!


I've been collecting for years but am still a novice. But my knowledge has increased over 100% by learning from the experts on this forum. Stick around for while and you'll be amazed what these guys know. And the best part is they love to share that knowledge!


In case I haven't said it before....


THANKS EVERYONE!! It's a pleasure to be here!

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Howdy and welcome. The coin in the ebay auction appears MS, but there is a scratch on the lower jawline that might be distracting in-hand. Overall, however, I think it looks pleasant. I believe the highest portion of the Jefferson obverse is the upper part of the cheekbone and the orbital around the eye. Look for rub or a change in luster around these areas to determine a high end AU from an MS. You would do well to purchase The Official ANA Grading Standards book that should run about $15-20 and can be found at most larger bookstores.

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The best way to spot wear is to look for the high points of a coin. You can do this by tipping the coin in the light until it is nearly horizontal to your line of sight. The high points will seem to just jump right off the coin. Normal wear always starts at these high points and usually appears to turn them a light grey color. Close inspection might reveal very light scratches but these can be rubbed off in a polishing action. Tip the coin back and forth while looking at the color of the various high points. If all this discoloration is confined to the highest point(s) then it is almost certainly caused by wear.


You might at first be fooled by incomplete fill. The deepest recesses of the die are the last to fill with metal and these are the highest points on the struck coin. The planchet is roughed up to coin better and these rough areas will not be smoothed out if they don't come into good contact with the die at these high points. They will often appear gray so it can be misleading. Usually you can just look at other high points on the another part of that side of the coin. The dies usually hit one side first since they aren't in perfect alignment so the side that hit first will have normal luster even on the high points. The grade "uncirculated" is defined as having no luster breaks caused by wear.


Sometimes coins will tone first at the high points so you need to learn to look "under the toning" to see if the luster is there. Some coins can be very deceptive because the entire surface has been affected by something which will mask the color variations. Be suspicious anytime the coin has an unnatural color or texture.


Much of spotting this difference is just experience and knowing what the coin should look like.

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I was a "collector" when I was in like seventh grade (over 20 years ago) and am just now getting back into it.


When it comes to "judging for yourself" as the condition of a coin, are the grade descriptions in the Red Book a good place to start?


Certain things I remember from those days are:


Lincoln cent: you look for wear on Lincoln's jaw/cheekbone.

Jefferson nickel: you look for the steps

Liberty Nickel: look for letters in the word 'liberty' as well as certain curls of hair.


Ah, my Liberty nickels. Most of them would only grade VG or lower and I have no key dates, but then again those are coins I've had for 20 years. I won't part with them.

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