The United States Mint has announced that it will include the first-ever nickels struck at the West Point Mint with “W” mint marks as a bonus to those who purchase the 2020 U.S. Mint Proof set and Silver Proof sets. These special 2020 nickels will come with a proof finish in the regular 2020 Proof sets and a reverse proof finish in the 2020 U.S. Mint Silver Proof sets. While initially the Mint planned to include a Jefferson Nickel with an uncirculated finish in the 2020 U.S. Mint Uncirculated coin set, due to production limitations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, they were not included as originally planned.
The First-Ever "W" Mint Marked Lincoln Cents Released in 2019
The 2020 nickels continue the program that was begun last year with the issuance of the first-ever "W"-mint mark quarters that were placed in circulation in 2019. The first-ever “W”-mint mark pennies, which were included as a bonus in the 2019 annual U.S. Mint sets, were also part of this initiative. The bonus coins included in 2019 and 2020 annual sets are part of the overall effort of current U.S. Mint Direct David J. Ryder to help increase the number of collectors of modern U.S. coins through means such as reaching out to young collectors, issuing news types of coins, and releasing collectible coins directly into circulation.
Some collectors have speculated that 2021 could see the issuance of 2021-W dimes. However, that is unclear at this point, especially since this tradition of including special bonus coins that are exclusively available in certain sets began in 1996 with the 1996-W dime that was included in the 1996 Uncirculated Coin set.
The West Point Mint
As collectors know, the West Point Mint in New York state is traditionally where bullion and precious metal collector coins are struck rather than circulating coinage and non-precious metal collector coins like the special 2020 nickels.
The special 2019-W pennies sold in last year’s sets helped spur greater interest from collectors and higher sales of those annual coin sets. The 2020-W nickels are expected to have the same effect.
Updates to Bonus Coin Packaging
Last year an issue arose with the special 2019-W pennies included in that year’s annual sets, which is that the coins were sometimes damaged by the time they reached collectors – many of whom had to return the coins along with the entire set for a replacement. That is because they were simply placed in poly bags and then tossed into the box used to ship the orders with annual sets. As a result, top-grade examples of those pennies are hard to find and can be quite valuable.
This year the Mint is working with the contractors who process orders for the U.S. Mint to ensure the 2020-W nickels are packaged better to help prevent damage in transit. In particular, the new nickels will be packaged separately in plastic wrap and then placed in a protective envelope, according to a February 7 report in Coin World. Hopefully, that will greatly reduce the incidence of coins damaged in transit.
NGC announced on February 7 that for examples of the 2020-W proof nickel submitted for grading, it is providing coins with attribution of First “W” Mint Mark Nickel at no additional fee, which will be featured on the grading label. And since these coins are only sold in the 2020 U.S. Mint Proof Set, it is not necessary to submit the entire set to receive labels with the special attribution for the nickel.
A Brief History of Jefferson Nickels
The Jefferson nickel, which has been issued since 1938, replaced the Buffalo nickel, which had become unpopular at that time, even though they are collector favorites today. The original obverse design of the coin featured a left-facing profile of former president Thomas Jefferson, the third president who served from 1801 to 1809. The reverse side has always featured an image of Monticello, which was Jefferson’s home and plantation in Charlottesville, Virginia.
After a two-year program in 2004-2005 called the Westward Journey with special one-year only designs, in 2006 a new obverse debuted that shows a front-facing profile of Jefferson that is still being used. Until now these coins have only been produced at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints. The first coins of any type to appear with a “P” mintmark for the Philadelphia Mint were 1942-P nickels made of silver because nickel was needed for strategic use during World War II.
Jefferson nickels are highly collectible because of the low cost of a complete set unless high-grade examples are sought. Plus, apart from variety coins, there are no major rarities. The special 2020 nickels with a “W” mintmark are sure to spark a renewal of interest in this longstanding, popular, and iconic series.
Paul Gilkes, “Annual sets will have premiums,” Coin World, Jan. 27, 2020; “Packaging upgrade for 2020-W 5 cent coin to accompany annual Proof set,” Feb. 7, 2020.