The FS (Full Step) Designation for Jefferson Nickels Defined (PHOTOGRAPHICALLY)

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Lehigh96, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    What constitutes a Full Step Jefferson Nickel? This seems to be a very common question amongst collectors. And most who ask want photographs of the difference between FS and non FS step Jefferson Nickels. Hopefully this thread will answer all of your questions relating to the FS designation and I will provide examples for 6FS, 5FS, and non FS with clear photographs. All of the photographs in this thread were taken by myself and are of coins presently in my collection.

    We should first start with a definition of the FS designation. I will refer to the PCGS OFFICIAL GUIDE TO COIN GRADING AND COUNTERFEIT DETECTION which defines it as:

    Full Steps (FS) is the designation following the numerical grade of some regular-strike MS60 or higher Jefferson nickels that have at least five separated steps (lines) at the base of Moniticello. Any major disturbance or interruption of these steps or lines, whether caused by contact, planchet problems, or another source, will result in the coin's not being designated FS. Only the slightest weakness on any step (line) is allowed for this designation. Some issues are almost never seen with Full Steps and may command a significant premium.

    PCGS does not go on to explain the difference between 6FS and 5FS, but essentially it relates to the number of fully separated lines seen on the coin. The 6FS designation will have 5 distinct lines and the 5FS designation will have 4 distinct lines. Any coin without at least 4 fully separated lines will not be awared the FS designation.

    It should also be noted that originally NGC did not award the FS designation to 5FS Jefferson's until February 16th, 2004. Before that date, NGC only used the FS designation for coins that showed 6FS. After that date they used two different designations, one for 6FS and 5FS. A coin in an older NGC holder with the FS designation equals 6FS. To my knowledge, PCGS always considered 5 or 6 full steps FS.

    Now that we have a general knowledge of what to look for, let us see some examples of full step and non-full step Jefferson Nickels.

    6FS Jefferson Nickel

    This coin is a 1940-D NGC MS67 FS (266026-003). Notice the coin has 6 steps fully separated by 5 distinct lines. There are some very minor marks on the steps, but none that disrupt the lines and there is no blending.


    5FS Jefferson Nickel (Almost 6FS)

    This coin is a 1958-D NGC MS66 5FS and is very close to being a 6FS. There are 5 fully separated lines with the exception of the far right of the 5th and 6th step above the "E" and "L" in Monticello. You will often see sellers on E-Bay advertising with verbage like 5FS and 99% 6FS. This is the type of coin they will be talking about. Please don't fall for the hype. There is no premium for almost being something.


    5FS Jefferson Nickel

    A 1944-P NGC MS67 5FS Jefferson Nickel with solid 5FS credentials. Again, there are some minor marks that don't completely disturb the lines but there is definite blending of the 5th and 6th steps above the "C" in Monticello.


    5FS Jefferson Nickel (Questionable)

    This is a 1941-D NGC MS67* 5FS. A beautifully toned Jefferson with a designation of 5FS. It should be obvious to everyone that this coin would never qualify for the 6FS designation because there is blending of over 50% of the 5th and 6th steps. In addition, there seems to be some minor blending of the other remaining 4 lines in spots. This is a coin that I believe would not get a 5FS designation more than 75% of the time if resubmitted. In other words, the 5FS designation was IMO, generous.


    Non FS Jefferson Nickel (Strong Strike)

    A gorgeous 1939-D Rev of 40 Jefferson Nickel with an otherwise very strong strike. Please note that while this coin is light years away from full steps (2 complete lines), this coin is well struck. As Doug has pointed out many times on this forum, the steps are not a true indicator of the overall strike on a Jefferson Nickel.


    Non FS Jefferson Nickel (Weak Strike)

    This is a 1951-D NGC MS66* Jefferson Nickel with amazing toning and one of the worst strikes I have ever seen on a Jefferson Nickel. There is almost no detail at all on Monticello and it is quite obviously not a full step candidate. Please compare this coin with the coin above and note the similarity in the steps but the drastic difference in strike.


    That concludes the lesson about the FS designation. I hope this was helpful to my fellow Jefferson Nickel collectors and can provide a good reference point for everyone. If anyone has any comments or questions regarding the FS designation, please let me know!
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  3. Half Dollar*

    Half Dollar* Numismaniac

    Very informative. Thanks for posting :)
  4. the_man12

    the_man12 Amateur Photographer

    Thanks a lot for posting that. You have some crazy nice Jeffersons!
  5. Joshycfl

    Joshycfl Senior Member

    Very nice post! :thumb:
  6. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    Great Contribution! Did anyone ever notice the cat in the window on the left? I think that is a great design touch.

  7. snaz

    snaz Registry fever

    I miss these posts of yours Paul. Thanks for the lesson!
  8. coinblogger

    coinblogger Senior Member

    Wow great article Lehigh. I love collecting FS Jefferson Nickels.
  9. borgovan

    borgovan Supporter**

    Fantastic article. Really nice work.
  10. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Thanks for the kudos guys, I appreciate it. Now let's see if we can apply what we have learned. Please rate the following coins with either 6FS, 5FS, or NO FS. Have FUN! To make this interesting, I included some coins that were slabbed prior to February 2004.

    NGC 1943-D MS67


    NGC 1945-D MS65


    NGC 1941-D MS67


    NGC 1943-D MS67


    NGC 1943-S MS67


    Give it try and see how you do!
  11. borgovan

    borgovan Supporter**

    Coin#1: None, because of the nasty gash running perpendicular to the steps.
    Coin#2: 5 steps. Clearly blending at the bottom.
    Coin#3: 6 steps, with a scratch on the plastic.
    Coin#4: 5 steps, but they probably gave it 6.
    Coin #5: Not full steps, but they might have given it 5.
  12. Catbert

    Catbert Evil Cat


    "I don't see no Cat" and I'm a Cat!

    Lehigh - very nice and helpful post! I'm not a nickel collector, but your post reminds me of how obsessive we are in this hobby of kings. Fretting over fine distinctions of grade, considering how many lines there are on a set of stairs, collecting die varieties, etc. No wonder the uninformed call us nerds!
  13. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Anyone else want to take a shot at the quiz?
  14. Andrew67

    Andrew67 Clueless

    If it wasn't for nerds where would we be...
  15. bqcoins

    bqcoins Olympic Figure Skating Scoring System Expert

    very informative and no no yes no no just on fs designation.
  16. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    Ok You have to look closer

    john65999 likes this.
  17. Half Dollar*

    Half Dollar* Numismaniac

    1. No FS do to mark on stairs.
    2. 5 FS
    3. 6 FS
    4. No FS?
    5. No FS
    MKent likes this.
  18. covert coins

    covert coins Coin Hoarder

    Great thread Lehigh96. Nice pics
  19. BadThad

    BadThad Calibrated for Lincolns

    Great post! The Jefferson's have the exactly same issue as Lincoln Memorial steps.....yet they get no FS designation. The steps are even more intricate on the Lincoln and a good indicator of reverse die state. This has always perplexed me!
    john65999 and MKent like this.
  20. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Anyone else want to give it a shot. I will be posting the answers tomorrow night.
  21. nickelman

    nickelman Coin Hoarder

    1943D Bad hit on steps
    1945D looks like a light cut over the E annd some weakness under the 2nd pillar.
    1941D appears to be 6FS
    1943D cut across steps over C.
    1943S steps bridged under 1st to 2nd pillar.

    Great post! Enjoyed the read.
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