Ray O. writes: The 1939 Jefferson nickel has a number of varieties. I have seen the reverse of 1938 (mushy steps), 1939, and 1939 with the reverse of 1940. My question is what is the difference between 1939 and 1939 with the reverse of 1940? (if any?)
If you look hard enough, every set of working dies have differences. Also, more changes occur as the die begins to wear. If you enjoy die varieties, stick, at least initially, to ones that have some significance such as the 1939 doubled Monticello or the 1942 D over D variety.
Die varieties on early U.S. coins are interesting because many of the design elements were struck into the working die by hand. That is why collecting Large Cents by Sheldon or Newcomb number is so popular. This kind of design latitude doesn’t exist for modern coins as all the design elements are transferred from the master hub. What is left are errors, or striking problems such as weak steps on the Jefferson Nickel.