JEFFERSON NICKELS
Business strike or Satin Finish?

Over the last few years beginning in 2005, perhaps earlier, questions were raised concerning the manufacturing process of the circulating coins (the business strikes), why the durfaces on circulating coins were similar to the satin finish mint set nickels. While searching for some answers as to whether the circulating coins and the mint set satin finish coins were struck from two entirely separate master hubs, I recently came across a definition of the word, "Uncirculated" which is located in the glossary on the website of the US Mint. It reads as follows but first, here's a very short review of the minting process.

Plastic molds produce master hubs which make the master dies. The working hubs are produced from the master dies. And lastly, the working dies are impressed from the working hubs. The point that I'll based my argument, did the US Mint make separate Master hubs from the plastic molds to produce a circulating coin and another for the satin finish coins found in mint sets? I came to the conclusion, they did not but let's look at the two definitions;

uncirculated:

The term "uncirculated" may have three different meanings when applied to a coin.

  • First, it can refer to the particular manufacturing process by which a coin is made.
  • Second, it can be used as a grade when referring to a coin's degree of preservation and quality of the strike.
  • Or third, "uncirculated" can point to the fact that a coin has not been used in everyday commerce.

At the United States Mint, we use the term uncirculated when referring to the special coining process used to make the coin, which gives it a satin finish.  Uncirculated coins are manufactured using the same process as circulating coins, but with quality enhancements such as slightly higher coining force, early strikes from dies, special cleaning after stamping, and special packaging.  Uncirculated coins may vary to some degree because of blemishes, toning, or slight imperfections.

Uncirculated . Uncirculated coins are struck like circulating coins, but with higher force, newer dies, special cleaning after stamping, and Mylar® packaging. Uncirculated coins may vary to some degree because of blemishes, toning, or slight imperfections as described below.

Highlighted in bold print are those sections that tells me they struck both circulating business strikes and satin finish (SF) coins from the same dies. The early strikes that were used to make the mint sets, the US Mint decided to call them Satin Finish coins. In a sense, which is my opinion, the business strikes that the US mint produced for circulation are nothing more than lower quality satin finish coins that were struck from used dies. This includes every domination from the 1 center to the half dollar and perhaps any other coin that was produced with a SF from 2005 to 2010 including possible earlier dates. The missing or lack of detail in Jefferson's hair bangs is a good indication the coin was struck for circulation.

The problems that arise with not knowing the difference, the top coin grading companies are now calling the coins meant for circulation, the uncirculation coins and than they also grade and label the Satan Finish coins as such. But the Satin Finish coins are the uncirculated coins. They are in the Mint Sets. Another problem that developes and it has, SF coins have been encapsulated in the non SF holders as uncirculated grading as high as MS69. And all they need to remember, full sharp hair details examples are called SF coins and not........well, here we go again, coins meant for circulation are not uncirculated coins, the SF coins are.........try to remember that. :)

If you think about it, the US MINT hasn't really made any business strikes like they use to since prior to 2005? If history can tell us anything, from the master dies, the US Mint made two kinds of coins, proof coins and business strikes. Coins from the business strikes were used for the mint sets. But of recent, they found a way to consistently make a very high quality product called Satin Finish (SF) coins (collector coims) which are found in the US mint sets from 2005 to 2010. Even with the inclusion of satin finished coins, the US Mint still only made two kinds of coins, proof coins and satin finish coins for the mint sets while business strikes or circulating coins were struck from used satin finish dies but with less coining pressure. The very first coins, early strikes from new satin finish dies were targeted for mint sets. And when the quality/condition of the satin finish dies began to wear and ever so slightly to a point where the coins produced didn't meet the level of quality needed for mint sets, subsequently, the coining pressure was lowered to strike lower quality coins to be released into circulation, all from the same working dies.

I believe the same problem occurred back in 1965 to 1967, that the circulating coins were products from used, possibly chemically treated SMS working dies. On a further note, the same could be said about the years 1968 to 1970 when both proof and circulating coins contained the same dates, 1968-S, 1969-S and the 1970-S, how do we tell a prooflike business strike from a late die state proof for those years. Must we assume the US Mint made individual master hubs for the proofs and another for circulating coins? No, it was how they prepared the surfaces of the dies.

A great deal can be said about this but I leave that to your imagination when your trying to locate business strikes for your collections when they really don't exist (possibly for 14 dates) in the series from 1938 to 2015.

 

Interesting note for 2009, the year with the lowest mintage since 1959-P for Philadelphia and 1952-D for Denver yet the US Mint still kept pace with 784,614 mint sets. That's right, there are 784,614 Philadelphia coins and 784,614 Denver coins made for the mint sets and practically every one of them will grade MS68 to MS70.

So you might think twice about paying a lot for 2009 rolls of Jefferson nickels or any other denomination for that matter since there are tons of extremely high grade examples out there to choose from, from mint sets and they're cheap too.

 

Having the true business strikes back with us for 2011, we can rest assured that the dies used to strike the circulating coins are the same dies that struck the coins for the mint sets.

That's right! The US Mint has ceased making Satin Finish coins due to letters/emails/pressure from collectors.

The certifying coin grading companies will have to deal with the onslaught differences in luster again and hopefully, they will notice the varying differences in strike details (cross your fingers on that one  :) )

With the satin finish coins, what was there to grade? Possible marks and blemishes? It was a perfected coin. The strike and the satin finish surfaces were made exactly the same for practically every coin.

After 7 long years, the hunt to locate the best struck, most lustrous markfree business strikes returns to us once again!   Well, not exactly.

                                                                         -------------------------------------------

I have also just learned that the coins struck for the 2011 mint sets, a higher pressure is being used again, the same way it was used for the prior years of the satin finish coins.

Being able to discern the strike deficiencies of details in the circulating coins from those coins earmarked for the mint sets will help the collector decide which coin to collect and what not to waste their money on.

Warning: Beware of sellers who are certifying coins from circulating coin rolls and mint bags and of grading companies who are placing unconfirmed circulating coins in their holders without due respect to the minting process of circulating coins verses the higher standards of the minting process for the higher quality coins from the mint sets. There's been a sudden influx of coins being graded MS68 for circulating coins? Before parting with your money on these coins, it's important to have an understanding of the strike characteristics between the two coins, the mint set verses the circulating coins. The only way to submit a coin made for circulation is if the entire nickel roll, unopened is submitted, was sent in. Otherwise, how would the grader know the coin did not come from a mint set? Again, it's in the bold details of Jefferson's hair. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures to give you an idea what to watch out for. This is something you can easily do yourself by simply buying a few mint sets and educate yourself, lol. You could also search the web as other collectors have provided a few detailed pictures.