Roll Hunting nickels is both exciting and frustrating. Nickels offer a little bit of everything to everybody. There’s a little bit of silver for the composition hunters, lots of older dates still circulating for the set hunters, and enough errors and varieties for the variety hunters to stay busy.
However there isn’t THAT much silver, completing a set is next to impossible, and some of those varieties are VERY scarce.
In my opinion though Nickels are the most fun denomination to CRH. There aren’t any other denominations out there where finding a pre 1940 coin is common. Most boxes will have at least a couple from 1938 and 1939. Think about that, nearly every box out there has at least one coin in it that was minted before Pearl Harbor was attacked!
You also run a fairly good chance of running across a Buffalo nickel. Current averages are showing that on average there’s a buffalo grazing in about every 6 or 7 boxes. Also if you search through 2 boxes more than likely you’ll stumble across at least 1 silver nickel but more than likely you’ll find 2. These were minted from 1942-1945 during World War 2.
And if you’re very dedicated, about every 100 boxes you should stumble across a Liberty nickel. Chances are it’ll be more than 100 years old. This just blows my mind. How many times has that nickel bought something? There’s no telling how many sodas or pieces of gum that thing has bought just waiting for you to grab it up and put it in your collection.
If you’d like to read a little bit of history on the Jefferson nickel I would suggest reading the Coin Resource article on them (new window).
Composition Hunters - There is still quite a bit of silver floating around in nickel boxes, however if you’re strictly a Composition Hunter I would suggest hunting half dollars. On average you’ll find 1 silver nickel per box. These silver nickels were minted during World War 2 and are composed mainly of manganese but also contain 35% silver.
Variety Hunters - I would highly recommend looking at the Variety Nickel website (new window) for information on Jefferson nickel varieties.
Set Hunters – Depending on what you call a set, Jeffersons are either a very easy set to put together, or next to impossible. Date sets aren’t simple, but are possible. You’ll struggle with the years 43-45 as well as 50 and 55 but with a little perserverance you will finish a date set. If you want a full set, then it gets to be a little more challenging. I have yet to hear of anyone completing a set from circulation (edit: as of 2012 I know of 4 different people that have completed sets from circulation myself being one of them. It took over 500 boxes to complete). Warren Wheeler is only missing the 50 D, but that’s going to be the hard one to find. I have heard of 3 people who have found 50 D’s in rolls but I’m sure they’re the exception.
Before putting a Jefferson set together I would recommend purchasing the 3 H.E. Harris & Co. folders for Jefferson nickels. Finishing the second and third folder should be a breeze. The first folder though is going to be a challenge. Plan on 5 nickels being extremely hard to find; 38 D and S, 39 D and S, and the 50 D (edit: as of 2012 there are in fact 7 examples that are hard to find. If you're interested in making a set of Jeffersons from circulation I would HIGHLY recommend reading this thread on CCF).