US Nickels – Get more than five cent's worth when collecting this integral decimal coin • The Coinage Act of 1792 created the nation's first five-cent coin: a silver disme, or half dime. Much later, the Coinage Act of 1866 created a new five-cent coin. It was made of a copper-nickel alloy and called a nickel. Both were minted and used interchangeably until 1873, when the silver half dime was discontinued. Find out more about US Nickels' history at our Learn Center.
US Nickels' changing looks
US Nickels have had just four major designs to date. The first nickels featured the shield design, copied from the two-cent coin, on their obverses. The second design for US Nickels depicted the allegorical profile of Liberty. The third design, by famed sculptor James Earle Fraser, paid homage to the western frontier. Its obverse featured the profile of a Native American and the reverse showed an American buffalo.
The fourth design debuted in 1938 and depicted our nation's third president, Thomas Jefferson, in a left-facing side profile. In 2006, it underwent a modern design makeover and showed a new portrait of Jefferson facing forward. To find out how collectors look for scarce US Nickels, read Coin Collecting by the Roll.
The Philadelphia and Denver mints issue US Nickels for circulation. The San Francisco Mint only struck circulating nickels with the Buffalo design from 1913 to 1938 and circulating Jefferson nickels from 1968 to 1970.
During WWII, when nickel was diverted for use in munitions, US Nickels were minted with 35% silver. From 1942-1945, the Philadelphia Mint struck nickels with a "P" mint mark, located above Monticello's dome on the reverse.
As part of a 2004-2005 anniversary mintage honoring the Lewis & Clark Expedition, US Nickels showed Jefferson facing right on the obverse. You can read more about these special issues and their historical connection to Thomas Jefferson at our Heads & Tails blog post on the Westward Journey.
In 2020, US Proof sets include a bonus US Nickel struck at the West Point Mint.