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In 1939 the Mint modified the reverse design of the Jefferson nickel so that the 1939 Jefferson nickels come in two varieties.  Variety 1 is usually described as the “Reverse of 1938” (Wexler JNRD-001) and is best recognized by steps on Monticello that are not well defined and sometimes described as “wavy”.  Variety 2 is usually described as the “Reverse of 1940” (Wexler JNRD-002) and it has very sharp, well defined steps on Monticello.  Both of these varieties are normal for the 1939 Jefferson nickels including the 1939 proof nickels, although the proof nickels with the reverse of 1940 are such scarcer than those with the reverse of 1938.

Here we see the steps on Monticello as they appear on all 1938 Jefferson nickels and some 1939 Jefferson nickels from all three Mints including proofs.  For the 1939 Jefferson nickels with these steps the variety is referred to as the "Reverse of 1938" and sometimes simply as "Variety 1."

These are the stronger, bolder steps on Variety 2 nickels for 1939.  The Mint switched to this design sometime in 1939 creating two different reverse varieties for the 1939 nickels.  This reverse can also be found for 1939 nickels from all three Mints as well as on proofs.  This reverse is frequently referred to as the "Reverse of 1940."

The transitional aspect enters in 1940 due to the discovery of a 1940 Jefferson nickel proof die with the “Reverse of 1938.”  How or why this variety resulted is a mystery and to our knowledge only one working die has been identified thus far.  If more working dies are reported, their diagnostics will be included on this page.

1940 5¢ Pr WTRD-001

Description:  A 1940 Jefferson nickel with the reverse design of 1938 featuring weak wavy steps.

Die Markers:  Obverse:  Numerous abrading die scratches show on the lower queue running in a mostly north to south direction.  Numerous abrading die scratches run in a mostly WSW to ENE direction on the lower bust.  Rotational die scratches can be found on the face, cheek, hair, and collar.  Reverse:  The reverse is a Class II doubled die showing a spread towards the rim on EPU.  The doubled die is listed as 1940 5¢ Pr WDDR-004.  A small die gouge (dot) can be found inside the lower part of the small left window.  A curving die scratch runs from SW to NE to the left of the semicircle above the two center columns.  A short, diagonal die gouge can be found to the right of the lower part of the 1st column.  Small die gouges can be found just below the 2nd column.  Die scratches twist from mostly north to south between the two right windows.  A die scratch runs NNE from the upper left of Monticello to the rim.

Submitted By:  Joseph Koelling

Cross References:  Cherrypickers: FS-05-1940-901 (024), Breen: #2670