Full designations focus on the reverse of Jefferson nickels (1938-present), with the two main holding companies having slightly different criteria, which confuse most lots on Proxibid, HiBid and eBay, promoting coins of inferior quality.
Full designations result in higher prices, in some cases considerably higher. Consider the common 1961-D nickel. It has a mintage of 229,342,760. In gem condition with no full steps, its PCGS retail value is $28. With complete steps, the price goes up to $20,000.
Yes, it is a dramatic case. But in general, any FS designation will significantly increase corporate strike values in any Jefferson nickel year.
Before presenting this case here, let’s examine the definitions of the full steps of PCGS and NGC.
PCGS states, “Full Steps (FS) is the designation following the numerical grade of certain regular-strike MS-60 or better Jefferson nickels that have at least five separate steps (lines) at the Monticello base. Any major disturbance or interruption to these steps or lines, whether caused by contact, plank issues, or another source, will result in the part not being designated FS.
NGC states, “Since 2004, NGC has used the designations 5-Full Steps (5FS) and 6-Full Steps (6FS) to qualify Jefferson Nickels. Prior to 2004, 6FS nickels were recognized with the FS designation. Any coin that has been given an FS designation by NGC is now treated as 6FS in the NGC census.
Both companies warn that any interruption to the steps on the reverse will not earn the coveted FS designation.
PCGS provides clear photos of complete steps:
If these coins were submitted to NGC, the 100% FS would be 6FS, and the minimum would be 5FS.
Here is one of my submissions that recently earned the FS designation:
This piece, which earned an MS-66FS designation, would likely have been a full 5 steps at NGC due to slight smoothing on the 6th step above the ‘C’ in ‘Monticello’.
The problem with online auctions on HiBid, Proxibid and eBay is hyped designations or bad photos, or a combination of both.
Here is an example with a good photo hyping double die reverse with full steps:
The 1939 double coin is rare and valuable. I’m not entirely convinced this is a gem and the rare “Doubled Monticello” as pictured below:
The HiBid photo is just too blurry – but not as far as full steps go. This room just lacks it.
Here’s the difference between a 1939 MS-65 Double Die “Monticello” Reverse with ($2,600) and without ($1,350) complete pitches. Also, keep in mind that there are other double dice reverses for that particular year (1939 five-cent reverse of 40, DDO FS-101, regular strike) that are only slightly higher in value to that of a common 1939 reverse of 1940.
I can’t tell from the photo.
The seller provides this description:
“Looks like full steps” is hardly encouraging. In sum, the photo just isn’t sharp enough to warrant bidding over $100, let alone $1,000. Nevertheless, I assure you that this coin would not bring FS to any of the major grading companies.
Here are two nickels that seller HiBid claims to have full steps:
I would be surprised if there were a step or two on these parts.
Also beware of sellers who not only claim the full pitch designation, but display a range of possible values for a part, as in this example with a lower quality photo:
Often you can get good Jefferson nickels in partial double mint sets. These are boards from which half dollars or quarters have been removed for tiling, as in this example:
Again, however, you’ll have to rely on the photos.
In sum, there are too many downsides to bidding on a raw Jefferson nickel unless the photos are clear and the seller is respectable. Although good deals can sometimes be had by bidding on raw coins, I recommend sliced coins that carry the FS designation. You might pay more, but you’ll get what you pay for.
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