Collecting coins is more than owning the most expensive piece you can find. It is for some people, but for most of us, it’s more about what each of these coins symbolizes.
The year 1964 was one for the ages. The single most significant advancement in human rights in the United States materialized with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Signed by President Lyndon Johnson, it banned all forms of discrimination based on race, skin color, religion, or ethnicity.
It was also the year Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize for his relentless fight against discrimination, culminating in the Civil Rights Act.
These two events deserve celebrating even today when discrimination still creeps around us, and not everyone enjoys these same protections. Cherishing these advancements in civil rights and promoting them to ensure we never lose them again can start with something as mundane as keeping a coin from that landmark year.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the 1964 coin. Its history, how to evaluate one, and its market value. You’ll walk away with the necessary knowledge to start — or expand — your coins collection.
The History of the 1964 Nickel
Despite how important 1964 was for the United States, the corresponding year’s nickel doesn’t have much of a history to speak of. It is part of the Jefferson Nickel series that started in 1938 and is still running to date.
The 1964 Jefferson Nickel celebrates the life and legacy of the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. This coin features his portrait on the obverse and his historic home, Monticello, on the reverse.
The coin was designed by Felix Schlag in 1938 and replaced the previous Indian Head cent. In 1964, the U.S. Mint struck a record number of more than one billion of these coins to address the shortage of silver coins caused by hoarding.
Editor’s note: 1964 was the last year where the U.S. mint added a mint mark to its coins. The practice resumed in 1968, after three years of protests by the American public.
The 1964 Jefferson Nickel is a testament to American history and Jefferson’s importance as a political and cultural leader.
Evaluating a 1964 Nickel
We’re not here to steal professional appraisers’ jobs. Becoming one takes lots of training and experience. But it’s still essential to learn how to evaluate a coin. You don’t need to be precise, but you do need to be able to give a ballpark estimate for the coin you’re considering. There are three main reasons for this:
- You’ll avoid overpaying for a poorly-maintained coin.
- You’ll be able to spot fantastic opportunities in garage sales or online auctions.
- The chances of you getting scammed and buying a fake coin drop considerably.
You’ll need a magnifying glass, a caliper or a ruler, and a scale to evaluate a coin. If you want to go the extra mile, you can also employ a testing kit to check the metal content, though that is not necessary.
First, you’ll check for authenticity. Weigh the coin and make sure it weights 5 grams. The next step is to measure the coin’s diameter with the ruler or caliper; it should be 21.20 millimeters. A discrepancy between either of the official values and those of the coins you are measuring is a red flag — you’re most likely dealing with a fake coin.
Now it’s time to examine the coin to evaluate it thoroughly. Here’s what you should be looking for.
Signs to Look Out For in 1964 Nickel Evaluation
Once you’ve established that the coin is authentic, pick up the magnifying glass (a loupe will also work) and carefully analyze the coin’s surface. Assign it a value that goes from 0 to 70 by following this chart.
Here’s what to look at:
- Condition: The coin’s condition is the number 1 factor you should consider when evaluating a coin. That’s what the magnifying glass and the grading chart are for — coins with a higher grade look newer and are thus more valuable than worse-looking coins.
- Rarity: You can’t escape supply and demand laws. The rarer a coin, its demand is higher than its supply. For example, a coin that belonged to a historical figure is rarer than an average everyday coin; thus, it’s more valuable.
- Mint mark: The mint mark is a proxy for rarity. Some mints produced higher quantities of a specific coin than others, making them more common. For example, in 1964, the Philadelphia mint produced 1,024,672,000 nickels, whereas the Denver mint produced 1,787,297,160.
- Looks: How attractive a coin looks also influences its value. While partially subjective, it’s still an impactful factor. Look for coins with different colorations or shading, and these are more valuable for ones with a pretty luster (luster is defined by how well the coin reflects light).
Now that you know how to evaluate a coin, let’s look into the market values of 1964 nickels
The Market Value of 1964 Nickels
Even though the U.S. mint produced billions of 1964 nickels, their surviving population is shallow. The reason is simple: how well do you treat a coin like a nickel compared to more valuable ones? Thus, nickels weren’t stored properly and were often lost, decimating their population.
Still, enough specimens are surviving to promote a collectors market. To help you navigate this market, we’ve prepared a list with relevant values of 1964 nickels, separated by conditions category.
Editor’s note: We’re skipping the category “Poor to Fine (Grades 0 to 15)” as there were no coins sold in this category in recent times. An ungraded coin sold for $92 in 2006, and that’s it.
Let’s get started.
1964 Jefferson Nickel – Very Fine to About Uncirculated (Grades 20 to 58)
These coins present moderate to significant wear, with clear design elements. They were used in everyday life and thus don’t have the same luster as higher-grade coins, but they’re still decent if you aren’t looking for a pristine piece.
Prices start at less than $10:
- This VF35-D coin sold for $6
- This XF45-D coin sold for $26
- This AU50 coin sold for $36
- This AU58-D coin sold for $10
A few went for hundreds of dollars:
Grading is not an exact science, that’s why you see coins with similar grades going for such wildly different prices. Also, this is where the looks factor comes into play: it’s likely that the most expensive nickels simply looked great.
1964 Jefferson Nickel – Uncirculated to Select Uncirculated (Grades 60 to 63)
Coins start having a Mint State from grade 60, which means they are (almost) as good as when fresh off the mint. Coins in this category have no wear or friction marks, but they do have flaws like weak striking or minor toning issues preventing them from reaching higher grades.
Prices start quite low, at $8:
Some went for a few hundred dollars:
Two coins in this category managed ot breach the $1,000 price mark:
The reason for these price fluctuations varies wildly. In the case of these past two auctions, the most likely explanation is that they were held by Heritage Auction and thus belonged to a unique collection.
1964 Jefferson Nickel – Choice & Gem Uncirculated (64 to 66)
The higher you go in grade, the smaller the flaws you will find in coins. These coins look sharp, and when they have imperfections, they are tiny scratches only visible under a magnifying glass.
Editor’s note: This is the only category with 1964-D/D nickels.
At the lowest end of this category, we find some very affordable coins:
- This MS64 coin sold for $6
- This MS65-D coin sold for $13
- This MS66 coin sold for $17
- This MS64-D coin sold for $38
Moving up the price ladder, there are a few specimens that went for a few hundred dollars:
And a bunch breached the thousand dollar mark, including the only known sales of 1964-D/D nickels:
- This MS66+ coin sold for $2,585
- This MS66-D coin sold for $3,995
- This MS66 coin sold for $5,750
- This MS65-D/D coin sold for $6,000
The absolute record sale in this category belongs to this MS66-D/D coin that went for a jaw-dropping $19,800
1964 Jefferson Nickel – Superb & Perfect Uncirculated (Grades 67 to 70)
These are the absolute best coins you can find. They look as good as new and will cause any collectors’ eyes to water, and their stomachs to twist.
Prices for the cheapest coins in this category start at a few hundred dollars:
Prices then rise to a few thousands of dollars:
- This MS67-D coin sold for $2,760
- This MS67-D coin sold for $4,025
- This MS67FS coin sold for $5,040
- This MS67FS coin sold for $9,400
The record sale belongs to this MS67 coin that went for a whopping $14,100.
Again, we don’t have a surefire way of determining why some coins only go for a few hundred dollars when others go for thousands of dollars. The most likely explanation is that the costlier one belonged to a famous person or collection.
1964 Nickels — Proof Coins
Mints create proof coins with a special process that involves stricking them multiple times with specially polished dies. The process creates shiny coins that are supposed to appeal specifically to collectors.
Proof coins challenge us to appreciate the finer details of craftsmanship and design, to marvel at the skill and precision involved in their creation, and to question our own values and preferences when it comes to collecting things.
Prices for proof coins start at $5:
Prices then slowly rise, with a cluster of coins that sold for a few hundred dollars:
- This PR67 coin sold for $141
- This PR69 coin sold for $207
- This PR70 coin sold for $470
- This PR70 coin sold for $949
The most expensive recorded auction for a PR coin saw this PR67 one selling for $1,020
Storing Your Valuable 1964 Nickels
Storing your old nickels is a matter of finding the perfect mix between protection and displayability. Sealing an old nickel inside an hyper-protected container is going to keep it in perfect shape for years to come, but then you won’t be able to showcase it to your guests.
Here are some potential places where you can store your old nickels:
- Coin rolls: You can buy coin rolls from a bank or a coin supply store and wrap your nickels. This is a cheap and easy way to store many nickels, but it may not protect them from dust, moisture, or damage.
- Coin tubes: You can buy plastic or cardboard tubes holding a certain number of nickels. This is a more secure way to store your nickels than coin rolls, as they provide some protection from the environment and prevent the coins from rubbing against each other.
- Coin holders: You can buy plastic or cardboard holders holding one or more nickels. These are good for storing more valuable or rare nickels, as they offer more protection and visibility than coin rolls or tubes. Some examples of coin holders are 2x2s, flips, snaps, slabs, and capsules.
- Coin albums: You can buy albums that have slots for different types of nickels. These are good for displaying your collection and organizing your nickels by date and mintmark. However, some albums, such as PVC or glue, may contain materials that can harm your coins over time.
- Coin boxes: You can buy containers holding multiple coin holders or tubes. These are good for storing or keeping your bulk nickels out of sight. However, you should ensure the boxes are made of acid-free materials and stored in a dry and cool place.
You can always get your nickels out of their containers and display them in a glass case or other protective enclosures. The above methods mostly shield the coins from oxygen and sunlight that will corrode the metal over time.
Jefferson nickels minted in 1964 might not fetch as high of a price as other coins from different eras, but they still symbolize a year of massive leaps forward in human rights. Whether you want to commemorate this iconic year or expand your collection, 1964 Jefferson nickels are a great choice.
They come in all prices and qualities, making them great for newbies and experienced collectors. If you’re on the market for a 1964 nickel, buy only from reputable dealers if you can; look for coins at offline auctions or antique coin shops so you can examine the currency before buying.
If, on the other hand, you’re stuck with buying your coin online, your best bet is to read the seller’s reviews to make sure they are reliable. Scams are pretty common in online auctions and markets since you can’t inspect what you’re buying and have to rely on pictures that may be doctored.
Good luck with your search!