United States Five-Cents Nickel
(1866 - Date)
Shield (1866 - 1883)
The Shield type nickel was made possible by the Act of May 16, 1866. The same composition as the nickel three-cent piece that was authorized in 1865, and a design similar to that of the two-cent coin. All Shield nickels were coined at the Philadelphia Mint.
Variety 1 - Rays Between Stars (1866 - 1867). The origional design for the Shield nickels reverse has rays between the stars. Some 1867 pieces have the same details, but later the rays eliminated, creating to varieties that year.
Variety 2 - Without Rays (1867 - 1883). To extend the life of the dies used during the minting process the rays were removed. There were no other changes untill the Liberty Type design in 1883, both types were produced that year.
Liberty Head or "V" Nickel (1883 - 1912)
Commonly know as the "V" Nickel because of the large letter on the reverse. Only 5 Liberty Nickels dated 1913 were ever made and were not a regular issue and never placed into circulation. All dates coined at the Philadelphia Mint only pieces dated 1912 bare a mint mark of Denver or San Francisco.
- Variety 1 - Without "CENTS" (1883). This coin first appeared with out the word "cent" on the reverse, just the large letter "V." Some slick cons of the era gold plated the coins and passed them for $5.00 gold pieces.
- Variety 2 - With "CENTS" (1883 - 1912). Because of the fradulent practice the word "Cents" was added to the reverse at the bottom below the "V."
Indian Head or Buffalo (1913 - 1938)
In the first year of issue, 1913, there were two distinct varieties, the first showing the bison on a mound, and the second with the base redesigned to a thinner, straight line. Unlike the "Indian Cent," in which its design was actually Liberty wearing a headdress. James E. Fraser employed 3 different Indians as models for his design on the nickel. On the reverse, the bison was modeled after "Black Diamond" who resided in the New York Central Park Zoo at the time. Coined at Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco, the mint mark located below the words "Five Cents" on the reverse.
Jefferson (1938 - 2003)
The Obverse of this nickel was designed by Felix Schlag, who won an award of $1,000 in a competition with some 390 artists. Coined in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco.
Wartime Silver Alloy (1942 - 1945). On October 8, 1942, the wartime five-cent piece composed of copper (56%), silver (35%), and manganese (%9), was introduced to eliminate nickel, a critical war material. A larger P, D, or S mint mark was placed above the dome of Monticello on the reverse. The letter "P" (Philadelphia) was used as a mintmark for the first time.
Regular composition and design resumed in 1946. Both regular issues and "Wartime" varieties were produced in 1942.
The mint mark was moved from the reverse to the obverse below the date starting in 1968. Previously the mint mark was located to the far right edge of the building Monticello.
"Westward Journey" Nickels (2004 - 2006)
Peace Medal & Keelboat (2004)
The United States created the following coins to commemorate the acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase, and the Expeditions of Lewis and Clark. There were two new reverse designs created while the obverse remained the same as the 1938 - 2003 series.
Peace Medal - The 2004 Louisiana Purchase/Peace Medal design is adapted from the reverse of the origional Indian Peace Medal commissioned for the expedition. These medals bear a portrait of President Jefferson on one side, and symbols of peace and friendship on the other.
Keelboat - The Keelboat Design features an angled side view of the keelboat that transported the Lewis and Clark expedition and thier supplies through the rivers of the Louisiana Territory. Built to captain Lewis's specifications, this 55-foot keelboat could be sailed, rowed, poled like a raft, or towed from the river bank
American Bison & Ocean View (2005)
In 2005 there were again two more reverse designs created in the "Westward Journey" program. These depict images of what Lewis and Clark saw in thier expedition. A new side profile of Jefferson was used on the obverse in 2005.
American Bison - The 2005 American Bison design features a bison standing in profile. Journals from the Lewis and Clark expedition described this large animal, which heald great significance to many American Indian cultures.
Ocean In View - The 2005 "Ocean In View" design captures the expedition's joy at finally seeing the Pacific Ocean after many months of arduous travel. It shows a cliffs-and-ocean scene and an inscription inspires by an excited entry in the journal of Captain William Clark, from November 7, 1805; "Ocean in View! O! The Joy!"
Return To Monticello (2006 )
The Obverse of this nickel displays yet another new profile of Jefferson. This time a more front facing profile was used. The Reverse returned back to the origional design created by Felix Schlag of Jeffersons home; Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.
From here on into the future, production of the nickel with the 2006 design is expected to continue for years to come.
Thanks for reading, check out my other guides on other denominations. Have fun and enjoy the hobby of coin collecting.