U.S. Nickels

The designs on the U.S. nickels are one of the many reasons people like to collect them. Collectors enjoy owning the many historical images on nickels, such as Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. Nickels contain metal, a combination of nickel and copper, with the United States coin being made up of approximately 0.04 ounces of nickel and 3.75 grams of copper.

When did the nickel change?

The first American nickels were issued in 1866 and were called Shield nickels for the image on them. In 1883, they changed to the Liberty Head or 'V' nickel on the reverse, due to the Roman numeral for five. The popular Buffalo nickel was minted from 1913 until 1938, with a buffalo pictured on the back and a Native American on the obverse. Jefferson nickels were introduced by the United States Mint in 1938. Thomas Jefferson is still on the coin, but the design changed in 2006 from his profile to his full face, the first time in history that an American coin in circulation shows a president not in profile.

What is the Liberty Head Nickel?

Sometimes referred to as the 'V' nickel, it is a United States five-cent piece minted for circulation between 1883 and 1912. The obverse shows the image of Lady Liberty's head facing left. A 'V' is on the reverse, the Roman numeral for five. The V - showing the face value of the coin - is surrounded by a wreath of corn, wheat, and cotton.

What are the rarest of the U.S. nickels?

The 1913 Liberty Head is a very rare coin, with only five of them known to exist. The Liberty head was replaced with the Buffalo nickel in 1913, so no Liberty nickels were officially struck after 1912. However, the mint had a die for a 1913 Liberty Head, before it was replaced, and a handful of test proofs were made from it before it was destroyed. Those coins fell into the hands of collectors, and two are on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

Which U.S. five-cent pieces should go in a collection?

That would depend on a few factors and personal preferences. Most numismatists choose to include at least one of each type of nickel that was circulated. Some collectors focus on obtaining one coin in all available mints and years it was struck. A new hobbyist might want to start with one specimen to represent each of the different types and let their collection grow from that.