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The Mystery of the 1968 Nickel Error: A Deeper Dive into its Legacy

September 17, 2023
2 mins read

Key Takeaways:

  • The significance of nickel during wartime and its influence on Jefferson Nickel production.
  • The unique features of the 1968 Jefferson Nickel.
  • The rarity of 1968 nickels with ‘full steps’.
  • The importance of the Sheldon Scale in grading coins and how it determines the value of a coin.

Nickel: More Than Just a Metal

During the tumultuous years of the First World War, nickel played an essential role, primarily in the production of weaponry like armored tanks. This soaring demand led to wide-scale hoarding of nickel, and consequently, Jefferson nickel coins. As a remedy to maintain nickel production levels, the US Congress decided on a temporary change in the metal composition for Jefferson coins. This transition led to coins being crafted from an alloy of copper, manganese, and silver.

Distinguishing Features of the 1968 Jefferson Nickel

Anyone familiar with the 1968 Jefferson Nickel will instantly recognize the distinctive obverse with Thomas Jefferson’s stern visage gazing to the left. Surrounding this visage are the words “IN GOD WE TRUST” and “LIBERTY”, marking the coin’s patriotic undertones. The reverse is equally captivating, showcasing a detailed representation of Jefferson’s esteemed residence, Monticello. Amidst this architectural wonder, the words “MONTICELLO” and “FIVE CENTS” anchor the design, flanked by the phrases “E PLURIBUS UNUM” and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” encircling the coin’s periphery.

The Elusive 1968 Nickel Error: A Rarity in Full Steps

Despite meticulous crafting, no widespread errors have been documented for the 1968 Jefferson Nickel. Yet, what makes a 1968 nickel truly unique is the ‘full steps’ feature. A Jefferson Nickel boasting at least five fully visible steps at Monticello’s base is deemed as having “Full Steps”, a testament to a coin being fully struck. With 1968 being notorious for subpar mint quality, locating a nickel from this year with full steps is akin to discovering a needle in a haystack, thereby making it highly coveted amongst numismatists.

Decoding Coin Worth: The Sheldon Scale Unveiled

Value in the world of coins isn’t merely about age or rarity; it’s significantly influenced by the coin’s condition. The Sheldon Scale, adopted by professional numismatists in the 1970s, is the cornerstone of coin grading. This scale, ranging from P-1 (Poor) to MS-70 (Mint State Perfect), offers a numerical measure of a coin’s condition, factoring in aspects like wear, contact marks, and overall aesthetic appeal. For instance, a coin graded as MS-65 on the Sheldon Scale would be uncirculated with a superb luster, minimal contact blemishes, and an unusually sharp strike. On the other hand, an MS-60 coin, while uncirculated, might lack the same luster and exhibit visible contact marks. Understanding this grading system is paramount for any collector, ensuring they can accurately gauge the worth of their prized possessions.


The 1968 nickel, with its history intertwined with wartime demands and its elusive ‘full steps’ feature, holds a distinctive place in numismatic lore. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a newcomer to the world of coin collecting, understanding the nuances of the 1968 nickel error and the Sheldon Scale can transform your appreciation for this small, yet historically rich coin. As with any treasure, it’s not just the tangible metal that holds value, but the tales and mysteries that it encapsulates.

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About Levi Keswick

LeviKeswick serves as a vibrant hub for diverse individuals to share their stories, absorb and contribute to emerging fashion trends, lifestyle concepts, and innovative ideas. We offer valuable insights and advice, amalgamating information painstakingly curated by experts in the field, alongside fashion connoisseurs and influential social media personalities.