Thursday, January 19, 2012

Breathing new life into an old, crusty nickel.

What a sad coin. Mr. Jefferson has definitely seen better days.

I dug this coin while metal detecting at at L.C. Anderson High School, which I visited in a previous blog post. I decided to give this eyesore his own feature, as it turns out this is the oldest coin I have dug to date.

This Mr. Jefferson looks like a 1939. This is actually quite cool, as Jeffersons only started being minted in 1938! After doing a little more research, it turns out that 1939-D Jefferson Nickels are the rarest Jefferson nickels that were intended for circulation. Awesome!

But is that what I have? My coin could be from Philadelphia, San Francisco, or Denver. Even with my magnifying glass, I can't really tell with all this gunk.

Most of the time, you shouldn't clean older coins. They can actually lose value when their patina is removed! But this is a nickel. It is made of 75% copper and 25% nickel... not something more valuable like silver. I checked ebay and 1939-D Jeffersons in better shape were only going between 5-10 bucks.

I decided that this coin was destined for my coinbook, and since I never intend to sell it, should be cleaned!

After polling fellow detectors on the Friendly Metal Detecting Forums, someone mentioned a mixture of white vinegar and table salt did wonders on his Liberty Head V Nickel (minted 1883-1913). Seeing as his nickel was over 30 years older than mine and came out looking great, I decided to give it a shot. Two hours soaking on each side and this is the result:

It is a 1939-D! And what a looker! You can even make out the eyebrow and cheekbones, which is something most coins in circulation from the 1960s lack. Removing the crust has also revealed a slight gash on the rim of the reverse, which I am not surprised about as I pulled a quarter not far from this nickel that had been through a lawnmower. Oh well. Because it has such a low mintage, this coin has definitely earned a spot in my coinbook!

Don't stop digging!


  1. I remember in 5th grade we cleaned old pennies by soaking them in Taco Bell hot sauce. I think this worked a little better.

    1. It was probably all the salt and vinegar in Taco Bell sauce that cleaned them!

      I didn't want to use TB sauce on the nickel because I've heard it can turn them red. I'll try it on some pennies in the future.