Jefferson nickel coin values have, for the most part, remained stable over the years as this series. One reason for this is that Jefferson nickels, designed in by Felix Schlag, don’t have as volatile a market as other 20th century U.S. coin series do. The Jefferson nickel series, which started in 1938, also boasts fewer key-date coins than other popular series and have softer values than many other coin series. In the case of the 1942-1945 “wartime” nickels, coin values have really only fluctuated in response to changing silver bullion prices.
The silver Jefferson five-cent coins were made to help ration nickel for World War II artillery needs. So the 25% nickel, 75% copper composition was changed to a wartime alloy of 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese. While the metallic composition of the wartime nickels was substantially different than for other issues in the series, the outward appearance of these five-cent silver coins remained largely the same as the regular nickels.
There was, however, one minor but important difference: the placement of a large mintmark on the reverse of the wartime nickels above the dome of Monticello. These “P,” “D,” or “S,” mintmarks are on every regular-issue wartime nickel and are the clearest visual distinction of silver Jefferson coins versus regular Jefferson nickels. The mintmark is most important in quickly identifying regular 1942 Jefferson nickels from those of the same year made with the silver composition.
Across the board, Jefferson nickels have rather low coin values. The most noteworthy issues in the series are the 1939-D, 1939-S, and 1950-D Jefferson nickels, which serve as the main key dates in the series. Coin values for those dates range between $5 and $10 for circulated specimens of the two 1939 nickels listed above; the 1950-D nickel is worth roughly $15.