VARIETY: 1941-S Large "S" Jefferson Nickel FS-501

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by Lehigh96, Sep 12, 2012.

  1. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast


    The 1941-S Large "S" is one of the most highly sought after Jefferson Nickel varieties and is very popular with roll searchers since it is distinguishable in the circulated grades. The variety bears the Fivaz-Stanton number FS-501 (formerly FS-024.5). According to Bernard Nagengast, less than 10 die pairs were used to create the 43.5 million 1941-S Jefferson Nickels with only one of those die pairs responsible for the Large "S" variety. As a result, the variety is rather scarce and NGC currently (9/2012) reports a total population of only 46 certified examples across all grades including only 2 full step examples which are both graded MS66 5FS. The purpose of this thread is to provide a reference for those who want to see the difference between a Large "S" and the smaller normal "S". In this article, we will examine a normal mintmark 1941-S, a Large "S" example, and compare the orientation of the mintmarks in relation to the other devices.

    1941-S Jefferson Nickel NGC MS67 (Small or Normal "S")


    It is important to recognize not only the shape and size of the mintmark, but the orientation in relation to the other devices of the coin. Please note that the bottom edge of the small mintmark is roughly inline with the bottom edge of the window on Monticello. Also note the style of the serifs which are knoblike in nature and that the bottom of the mintmark appears wider than the top of the mintmark.

    1941-S Jefferson Nickel NGC MS65 (Large "S")​


    Observations of this mintmark are that it is slightly larger and more symmetrical in its width. Furthermore, the bottom edge of the mintmark is noticeably located below the bottom edge of the window on Monticello. Another important difference between the two styles of mintmark is that the Large "S" has a triangular shaped bottom serif that is very distinctive and varies significantly from the knob shape of the smaller mintmark.

    The problem with these types of discussions is the ability to process the information that we see in clear documented photos and then apply that information while scanning hundreds of nickels during the roll searching process. When looking at the photos posted above, the differences appear to be significant and rather easy to detect. But when looking at the coins, I promise that the variation becomes much more difficult to detect.


    It is my opinion that the best way to recognize the difference between the Large "S" and small "S" is not to attempt to discern the difference in size, but rather to look for the orientation of the mintmark in relation to the other devices on the coin. Since the Large "S" is placed significantly lower on the coin, it should be rather easy to find by comparing the relation of the bottom edge of the mintmark to the bottom edge of the window on Monticello. When I imaged the coins shown above, I used the same set up, magnification, and lighting which produced images that were almost identical in size. The best way to see this is by comparing the two images side by side with the addition of gridlines.


    First, it is important to notice that the intersection of the gridlines and devices of each coin image are almost identical. Without this, any comparison would be useless. Each image is 500 square pixels and each grid block is 25 square pixels. While not shown in the photos, I measured each mintmark in pixels and these are the results. The small "S" is basically 35x35 pixels while the Large "S" is 43x35 pixels. As surprising as it is, both mintmarks are the same width and the Large "S" is only 20-25% taller than the smaller mintmark.

    So while the size of the mintmark is not instantly detectable, the orientation is extremely obvious. In the smaller normal mintmark, no part of the mintmark falls below the bottom edge of the window on Monticello. The Large "S" on the other hand is located 15 pixels lower than the normal mintmark and almost the entire bottom serif falls below the bottom edge of the Monticello window. And while this is readily evident from the photo above, it becomes extremely visible when viewing the two images superimposed.


    This image clearly shows how much lower the Large "S" is located and the area of overlap between the mintmarks appears darker. It is also important to notice that there is very little doubling of the other devices and lettering as a result of the superimposing.


    The point of all this is that it should be easier to detect the 15 pixel change in location of the mintmark than the 8 pixel increase in height of the mintmark. Once you find a coin with a mintmark that is located below the window, checking the other diagnostics such as the triangular bottom serif should help close the case on whether or not the coin is actually the vaunted Large "S" variety. As a parting thought, I have found other sources that claim that the large "S" was used for the 1941 and beyond. Technically this is not true. The style of "S" with the triangular serif was only used on the 1941-S Large "S" Jefferson. While the subsequent post war issues also used a larger mintmark, they did not bear the tell tale triangular serif.

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  3. bsowa1029

    bsowa1029 Franklin Half Addict

    Very nice article. It's funny that you posted this today since this morning is the first time I learned of this variety, I happened to stumble upon a video of it on youtube. I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for this one now.
    Brina likes this.
  4. gbroke

    gbroke Naturally Toned

    Nice Paul. Thanks for the information. Great article.
    Dean 295 and Brina like this.
  5. desertgem

    desertgem Senior Errer Collecktor Supporter

    Nice article Paul! I think we have too few of such these days. Besides the Jeffersons, there were some similar usage in cents in 1941 with a Large and a Small S, and even one possible Large S over a small S ( RPM#2).
  6. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Yep, they actually used the Large "S" mintmark on Washington Quarters as well. For those with NGC memberships, here is the link to the Variety Plus page: 1941-S Large S Washington Quarter and the photo is shown below.

  7. Paul: Enjoyed your thread. Thanks for posting it. Couple of questions:

    1. What premium do these bring?
    2. Where is the best place to search for them?

  8. Sorry, one more question: Is the large S nickel variety seen on other years? Thanks, TC
  9. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Honesty, they are not that expensive given their rarity. I purchased my MS65 for less than $150 and the NGC population is 9/12. I guess the only way to find them is to find a 1941-S roll and start searching.
  10. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

  11. Too bad. Thought I found a 1946 with the large S specs you posted and was going to bid on it but will pass now. TC
  12. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Remember, all of the post war San Francisco minted Jeffersons will have a large "S" but they will not have the triangular bottom serif.
  13. robbudo

    robbudo Indian Error Collector

    Very nice compilation. thanks!
  14. Marshall

    Marshall Junior Member

    Great article!

    From my background attributing Large Cents, I would probably use the height of the mint mark itself to help distinguish the location difference. The small s has sufficient space below it to have another small s. The Large S only has half a S worth of space.

  15. clorox

    clorox Member

    1942 to 1945 also had a large S ;)
    coinzip likes this.
  16. Paul: Are either of these the 1941 large S variety? I am thinking the one on the left (or top) is and the one on the right (or bottom) is not. Thanks, TC

    Attached Files:

    capthank likes this.
  17. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    The one on the left could be but I need a closer photo of the mintmark to be sure. Does it have a triangular bottom serif?
  18. Hard to tell. Here is a zoomed pic, which is the best I can do since it is not my pic. I am not a nickel enthusiast like you but you got me interested in this variety. I am guessing you will tell me to bid on it, as it starts at .99. What would be the highest you would go? Looks AU to me. Thanks, TC

    Attached Files:

  19. stldanceartist

    stldanceartist Minister of Silly Walks Supporter

    FWIW, thanks for this post - helped me find 4 of them in a roll of "better date" nickels I'd saved. Nothing too spectacular...but I'll take it!

    Again, thanks for a great well-written and informative post.
    Cheech9712 likes this.
  20. Becca

    Becca New Member

    I found mine in circulation, I didn't even know it existed until I was sorting all my duplicate nickels and saw four 1941-s nickels all together and one had a larger S.

    Attached Files:

    capthank likes this.
  21. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Yep, the one on the left is definitely a large S. Congrats on your find and welcome to the forum. Have you found any war nickel varieties in your searches?
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