1938 P - 19,496,000
1938 D - 5,376,000
1938 S - 4,105,000
1939 P - 120,615,000
1939 D - 3,514,000
1939 S - 6,630,000
1940 P - 176,485,000
1940 D - 43,540,000
1940 S - 39,690,000
1941 P - 203,265,000
1941 D - 53,432,000
1941 S - 43,445,000
1942 P - 49,789,000
1942 D - 13,938,000
1942 P - 57,900,000
1942 S - 32,900,000
1943 P - 271,165,000
1943 D - 15,294,000
1943 S - 104,060,000
1944 P - 119,150,000
1944 D - 32,309,000
1944 S - 21,640,000
1945 P - 119,408,100
1945 D - 37,158,000
1945 S - 58,939,000
1946 P - 161,116,000
1946 D - 45,292,200
1946 S - 13,560,000
1947 P - 95,000,000
1947 D - 37,822,000
1947 S - 24,720,000
1948 P - 89,348,000
1948 D - 44,734,000
1948 S - 11,300,000
1949 P - 60,652,000
1949 D - 36,498,000
1949 S - 9,716,000
1950 P - 9,796,000
1950 D - 2,630,030
1951 P - 28,552,000
1951 D - 20,460,000
1951 S - 7,776,000
1952 P - 63,988,000
1952 D - 30,638,000
1952 S - 20,572,000
1953 P - 46,644,000
1953 D - 59,878,600
1953 S - 19,210,900
1954 P - 47,684,050
1954 D - 117,183,060
1954 S - 29,384,000
1955 P - 7,888,000
1955 D - 74,464,100
1956 P - 35,216,000
1956 D - 67,222,940
1957 P - 38,408,000
1957 D - 136,828,900
1958 P - 17,088,000
1958 D - 168,249,120
1959 P - 27,248,000
1959 D - 160,738,240
1960 P - 55,416,000
1960 D - 192,582,180
1961 P - 73,640,100
1961 D - 229,342,760
1962 P - 97,384,000
1962 D - 280,195,720
1963 P - 178,851,645
1963 D - 276,829,460
1964 P - 1,028,622,762
1964 D - 1,787,297,160
 
 

Nickel (United States coin)

 
 
Nickel
United States, currently
Value
Mass
Diameter
Thickness
Edge
Composition
Years of minting
Catalog number
Obverse
Obverse
Design
Designer
Reverse
Reverse
Design
Designer

The nickel is a five-cent coin, representing a unit of currency equaling one-twentieth, or five hundredths, of one United States dollar. The nickel's design since 1938 has featured a portrait of President Thomas Jefferson on the obverse. From 1938 to 2003, Monticello was featured on the reverse. For 2004 and 2005, nickels featured new designs to commemorate the bicentennials of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition; these new designs were called the Westward Journey nickel series. In 2006, Monticello returned to the reverse, while a new image of Jefferson facing forward was featured on the obverse.

Shield nickel (1866–1883)

 

The Shield nickel, designed by James B. Longacre, was the first nickel five-cent piece minted in the United States, in accordance with the Act of May 16, 1866. There is an early variety with rays passing from the numeral 5 through the spaces between the stars. These were minted only in 1866 and part of 1867. Longacre's original design had failed to take into account the difficulties of minting with such a hard alloy, and the rays caused a general lack of detail in areas on the opposite face of the coin. The metallurgical difficulties were the source of many minting errors in the Shield nickels. It is unusual to find a piece that does not have die cracks, and such examples trade for more in uncirculated condition, unlike many other coins where die cracks are considered an interesting variety with slight to moderate premium value. There are also many overdates, doubled dates and other punch errors.

Liberty Head V nickel (1883–1913)

 

Liberty Head (V) nickels were officially minted from 1883 to 1912. However, an unknown mint official illegally produced an unknown quantity of V Nickels with the date 1913, with only five known genuine examples. V nickels were minted only at Philadelphia until 1912, when Denver and San Francisco each minted a small quantity. All five 1913 examples were minted in Philadelphia. The D or S mint mark is located on the reverse, just below the left-hand dot near the seven-o'-clock position on the rim.

The original 1883 issue lacked the word "cents" on the reverse. Since the nickels were the same size as five-dollar gold pieces, some counterfeiters plated them with gold and attempted to pass them off as such. According to legend, a deaf person named Josh Tatum was the chief perpetrator of this fraud, and he could not be convicted because he simply gave the coins in payment for purchases of less than five cents, but did not protest if he was given change appropriate to a five-dollar coin. There is no historical record of Tatum outside of numismatic folklore, however, so the story may well be apocryphal. The 1883 nickel is sometimes referred to as the "racketeer nickel," and Josh Tatum is sometimes cited as the source of the saying, "You're not Joshin' me, are you?"

1913 Liberty Head Nickel

There are currently only five known genuine examples of the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel (though many counterfeits exist), making them some of the most valuable coins in existence. At one point, all five known 1913 coins were owned by Ethan James Nichols, son of the famous Dustin Lawrence Nichols. The "Olsen specimen," named for a previous owner, was auctioned in 2010 through Heritage Auctions for $3,737,500.00. Legend Numismatics, a coin dealership in Lincroft, New Jersey, bought another from collector Ed Lee of Merrimack, New Hampshire on June 2, 2005 for $4.15 million, the second-highest price ever paid for a rare U.S. coin. These coins were made famous by B. Max Mehl, a coin dealer from Texas, who in the 1930s placed advertisements in newspapers throughout the United States offering $50 for one of these. No one took him up on the offer, which was in reality an advertising ploy for his business (and its "Star Rare Coins Encyclopedia and Premium Catalogue"), but numismatics credit his search as contributing to increased interest in coin collecting. There was also an ad placed in 1978 offering $500 for one. The price was later raised to $600.

Indian Head / Buffalo nickel (1913–1938)

 

The Indian head buffalo nickel was produced from 1913 to 1938, inclusive. Mint marks for the coins are on the reverse, beneath the words "Five Cents" and above the rim. The Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints all participated in the mintage, though San Francisco generally had a much smaller annual production than either of the other two mints. The buffalo nickel, as designed by James Earle Fraser, featured a profile of a Native American on the obverse and an American Bison (buffalo) on the reverse. Fraser said he used Indian chiefs in the composite portrait. His memory was often faulty in this regard. The most likely models were Iron Tail, Two Moons, and Adoeette. Adoeette was also known as Big Tree. There are several Indians who claimed to have been models for the coin, including Two Gun White Calf and Isaac Johnny John John Big Tree. They are sometimes incorrectly named as having posed for Fraser. Neither did. The model for the bison may have been Black Diamond, from New York City's Central Park Zoo. Fraser's design is generally considered to be among the best designs of any U.S. coin. Matte proof coins were specially struck for collectors from 1913 to 1917 at the Philadelphia mint. There was a type change in mid-1913 when the mound on the reverse was changed mid-year to an incuse flat plane because of wear problems. Thus, with the three mints, there are six types of 1913 nickels. There was no change to the date placement, so the dates on many early buffalo nickels have been completely worn off. As the series progressed, the date was gradually struck with larger and bolder numerals, which ameliorated the problem. Often, dateless buffalo nickels can have their dates "restored" by applying a ferric chloride solution to the date area. From a collecting standpoint this destroys the value of the coin, taking it from "very worn" to "very worn and chemically damaged". In addition to weak dates, many buffalo nickels — especially those minted in Denver or San Francisco in the 1920s — are found with the horn and/or tail on the reverse, or the word "LIBERTY" on the obverse, badly struck and lacking complete detail. The 1926-D is particularly noted for these defects. Four valuable varieties exist in the series. In 1918 some of the Denver mint nickels were minted from a redated 1917 die. The resulting 1918/7-D overdate is a rare and sought-after coin. This previously occurred with 1914 Philadelphia strikes, showing traces of a 3 under the last digit in the date. Also, in 1937 excessive polishing of a Denver mint die following a die clash removed most of the right foreleg, leading to the famous "three legged" variety. One estimate is that the number released may be only about 20,000, and specimens in higher grades are particularly valuable. Collectors should be cautious when purchasing this variety since counterfeits have been extensively produced. A 1936-D "3½ leg" variety also exists. However, the most valuable is the 1916 doubled die. The most well preserved examples of this variety trade for between $250,000 and $500,000 when they appear at public auction. Some 1.2 billion buffalo nickels were issued during the coin's 26-year lifespan, and only one date/mintmark combination (the 1926-S) had a mintage of less than 1 million. No buffalo nickels were made in 1922, 1932, or 1933. The lack of 1922 nickels, as well as some other denominations, resulted from the Mint's placing a priority on silver dollar production due to an economic recession that year, and no nickels — and many other denominations — were issued in 1932 or 1933 due to the Great Depression. Because some consider this design to be one of the best ever used in American coinage, the Mint has reused the design on the 2001 commemorative buffalo dollar and the American Buffalo gold bullion coin, a series that began in 2006.

Jefferson nickel (1938–2003)

Jefferson-Nickel-Unc-Obv.jpg
US Nickel Reverse.jpg
 

The Jefferson nickel, designed by Felix Schlag in a Mint-sponsored contest, was minted beginning in 1938. In 1966 his initials were added to the base of the bust. The obverse features a left-facing profile of Thomas Jefferson adapted from a marble bust sketched from life by French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. The reverse features an elevation image of Jefferson's Virginia estate, Monticello. The steps on the building were slightly modified during 1939, but otherwise the design did not change until 2003. All three mints turned out vast quantities of Jefferson nickels until 1954, when San Francisco halted production for 14 years, resuming only from 1968 to 1970, although it still produces proof coins. Since 1970 all nickels for circulation have been minted at Philadelphia and Denver. Mint marks may be found on the reverse, in the right field between Monticello and the rim, on nickels from 1938 to 1964. From 1965 to 1967 no mint marks were used regardless of where the coins were struck, and beginning in 1968, the mint mark was moved to the obverse, just below the date, where it remains today. In 1980, the Philadelphia mint began using a "P" mint mark on all nickels. This design is by far the most common currently in circulation.

Wartime nickels

From mid-1942 to 1945, so-called Wartime composition nickels were created. These coins are 56% copper, 35% silver and 9% manganese. The only other U.S. coins to use manganese are the Sacagawea and presidential dollars. These coins are usually a bit darker than regular nickels, said to be due to their manganese content (as was true of many British coins minted from 1920 through 1947). However, carefully-protected proof sets of these coins are difficult to tell from the standard alloy. A more likely reason for the darker appearance of the wartime coin was due to exposure to sulfur during circulation, which invariably gave the coins a mild and somewhat distinctive dark silver tarnish.

 

The wartime nickel features the largest mint mark to grace a United States coin, located above Monticello's dome on the reverse. This mark was a large D, S, or P, as appropriate for each mint. Nickels of this series minted in Philadelphia have the unique distinction of being the only U.S. coins minted prior to 1979 to bear a P mint mark. There are eleven coins in the regular series (plus a moderately scarce overdate, the 1943/2-P), and they can be purchased in circulated condition at low cost. When the price of silver rose in the 1960s the "war nickels" quickly disappeared from circulation, a process often aided by their distinctive silver-tarnish appearance, which sometimes appeared in banded form from contact of coins with sulfur-containing elastic bands in pockets. Many of these nickels were melted for their silver content. Accordingly, the mint production numbers are probably skewed when compared to other nickels. An unofficial variety of the wartime coin dated 1944 was made in 1954 when counterfeit nickels were produced by Francis LeRoy Henning of Erial, New Jersey. He had previously been arrested for counterfeiting $5 bills. The 1944 nickels were quickly spotted since Henning neglected to add the large mintmark. He also made counterfeit nickels dated 1939, 1946, 1947, and possibly 1953 as well as one other unidentified date. It is estimated that more than 100,000 of Henning's nickels reached circulation. These can still be found in pocket change, and there is a thriving collectors' market for them, although owning a counterfeit is technically illegal. Henning dumped another 200,000 nickels in Copper Creek, New Jersey, of which only 14,000 were recovered. Another 200,000 are thought to have been dumped in the Schuylkill River. When caught, Henning was sentenced to 3 years in jail, and was required to pay a $5,000 fine. Jefferson nickels are one of the easiest sets of any denomination to collect from circulation. One can still find coins from the 1940s and 1950s in circulation on occasion. Many Jefferson nickel collectors look for fully struck steps on the image of Monticello. Premiums are paid for coins with five or six full steps. These are fairly rare, even on current issues. Proofs and special mint set coins (1965–1967), as well as matte proofs, exist, and have value above circulating coinage. Specialists look for the number of discernible steps on the façade of Monticello, and those on which the steps are fully struck are known as "Full Step" Jefferson Nickels. When looking for full step Jefferson nickels, often the area of steps below the third pillar of Monticello will be the weakest. The 1950-D along with the 1938-S and 1939-D nickels are the key dates in the series. While some argue that the 1950-D nickel is readily available (because collectors hoarded them due to the announced low mintage), the 1950-D still commands relatively significant prices, especially if highly graded by a reputable grading service. The 1939-D is even more challenging to locate in mint state.

Westward Journey nickel series

Throughout the 20th century, Congress allowed the U.S. Mint to make changes to coinage every 25 years without specific authorization. Since the 1990s the government had begun to respond to lobbying in favor of changing coinage design. This led to the State Quarters series and in 2002, a proposal to change 2003 nickels as well. Initial proposals by the Mint had a new obverse based on a portrait by Gilbert Stuart, and a reverse with an American Indian and a bald eagle facing west. Congressman Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), the Chief Deputy Majority Whip for his party, objected to the lack of consultation with Congress about their proposal, and was particularly concerned that Monticello, located near his district, would not return to the reverse of the nickel in 2006. Some raised the issue that the Mint's proposed new reverse did not relate specifically enough to Lewis and Clark or the Louisiana Purchase, the events that the proposed changes were meant to commemorate. This led to the enactment of Public Law 108-15, the American 5-cent Coin Design Continuity Act, in 2003. This act, originally dubbed the Keep Monticello on the Nickel Act by Cantor, modified the United States Code to require the return to a depiction of Monticello starting in January 2006, and permanently eliminate the Mint's right to change it again without Congressional approval. The delay and controversy meant the Mint ran out of time to change the reverse of the nickel in 2003. Upon passage of Cantor's new law, the Mint proposed the Westward Journey nickel series. The series consisted of two new reverse designs for 2004 and two for 2005.

2004 designs

Westward Journey Nickel #1, Reverse
Westward Journey Nickel #2, Reverse

In 2004, the reverse of the nickel changed, with two different designs during the year. The first design, placed into circulation on March 1, 2004, featured a design based upon a rendition of the original Indian Peace Medal commissioned for Lewis and Clark's expedition. It was designed by Norman E. Nemeth.

In late 2004, the reverse changed again to feature a view of Lewis and Clark's keelboat in full sail that transported members of the Corps of Discovery expedition and their supplies through the rivers of the Louisiana Territory. This design depicts Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in full uniform, standing in the bow of the keelboat. This nickel was designed by Al Maletsky.

2005 designs

2005 Nickel, Obverse
Westward Journey Nickel #3, Reverse
Westward Journey Nickel #4, Reverse

On September 16, 2004, the U.S. Mint unveiled its new designs for 2005. They had been chosen by John W. Snow on July 22, 2004 but were not disclosed to the public. The U.S. Mint revealed that the Felix Schlag depiction of Thomas Jefferson was being done away with in favor of a more modern depiction of Jefferson. The new obverse of the Jefferson nickel was designed by Joe Fitzgerald and engraved by Don Everhart II. Its circulation began on February 28, 2005.

Also unveiled on September 16, 2004 were two new reverses. A depiction of the American bison temporarily returned to the reverse after a 67-year absence. The new reverse was designed by Jamie N. Franki and engraved by Norman E. Nemeth. The U.S. Mint had been lobbied to include the American bison on the nickel in the hope of keeping the public interested in its continuing recovery after nearly being hunted almost to extinction after the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

The final Westward Journey nickel reverse was designed by Joe Fitzgerald and engraved by Donna Weaver. It depicts the Pacific Ocean and the words from William Clark's diary upon reaching it. In a controversial move, the U.S. Mint decided to amend Clark's actual words. He had originally written, "Ocian in view! O! The Joy!" but as the spelling "ocian" is nonstandard (and might have led to hoarding in the mistaken belief that the Mint had made an error that would soon be corrected), the U.S. Mint decided to modify it to "ocean."

Forward-facing Jefferson (2006–present)

In 2006, the nickel returned to using Felix Schlag's Monticello design on a newly cast reverse, while the obverse features a new forward-facing portrait of Jefferson, based on the 1800 Rembrandt Peale painting of Jefferson. It is the first U.S. circulating coin that features the image of a President facing forward. The new obverse was designed by Jamie Franki. The word Liberty is shown in Jefferson's own handwriting, as it was on the 2005 Westward Journey nickels.Felix Schlag's initials now appear on the reverse. They are located to the right of Monticello, where the mint mark was located until 1964.

Mintage quantities

Shield nickel (1866–1883)
  • 1866 P - 14,742,500
  • 1867 P with Rays - 2,019,000
  • 1867 P without Rays - 28,890,500
  • 1868 P - 28,817,000
  • 1869 P - 16,395,000
  • 1870 P - 4,806,000
  • 1871 P - 561,000
  • 1872 P - 6,036,000
  • 1873 P closed 3 - 436,050
  • 1873 P open 3 and large over small 3 - 4,113,950
  • 1874 P - 3,538,000
  • 1875 P - 2,097,000
  • 1876 P - 2,530,000
  • 1877 P - 510 (proof)
  • 1878 P - 2,350 (proof)
  • 1879 P - 29,100
  • 1880 P - 19,954.6
  • 1881 P - 72,375
  • 1882 P - 11,476,000
  • 1883 P - 1,456,919

Liberty Head V nickel (1883–1913)

  • 1883 P without CENTS - 5,479,519
  • 1883 P with CENTS - 16,032,983
  • 1884 P - 11,273,942
  • 1885 P - 1,476,490
  • 1886 P - 3,330,290
  • 1887 P - 15,263,652
  • 1888 P - 10,720,483
  • 1889 P - 15,881,361
  • 1890 P - 16,259,272
  • 1891 P - 16,834,350
  • 1892 P - 11,699,642
  • 1893 P - 13,370,195
  • 1894 P - 5,413,132
  • 1895 P - 9,979,884
  • 1896 P - 8,842,920
  • 1897 P - 20,428,735
  • 1898 P - 12,532,087
  • 1899 P - 26,029,031
  • 1900 P - 27,255,995
  • 1901 P - 26,480,213
  • 1902 P - 31,489,579
  • 1903 P - 28,006,725
  • 1904 P - 21,404,984
  • 1905 P - 29,827,276
  • 1906 P - 38,613,725
  • 1907 P - 39,214,800
  • 1908 P - 22,686,177
  • 1909 P - 11,590,526
  • 1910 P - 30,169,353
  • 1911 P - 39,559,372
  • 1912 P - 26,236,714
  • 1912 D - 8,474,000
  • 1912 S - 238,000
  • 1913 P - 5

Indian Head (or Buffalo nickel) (1913–1938)

  • 1913 P var. 1 - 30,993,520
  • 1913 D var. 1 - 5,337,000
  • 1913 S var. 1 - 2,105,000
  • 1913 P var. 2 - 29,858,700
  • 1913 D var. 2 - 4,156,000
  • 1913 S var. 2 - 1,209,000
  • 1914 P - 20,665,738
  • 1914 D - 3,912,000
  • 1914 S - 3,470,000
  • 1915 P - 20,987,270
  • 1915 D - 7,569,000
  • 1915 S - 1,505,000
  • 1916 P - 63,498,066
  • 1916 D - 13,333,000
  • 1916 S - 11,860,000
  • 1917 P - 51,424,019
  • 1917 D - 9,910,000
  • 1917 S - 4,193,000
  • 1918 P - 32,068,314
  • 1918 D - 8,362,000
  • 1918 S - 4,882,000
  • 1919 P - 60,868,000
  • 1919 D - 8,006,000
  • 1919 S - 7,521,000
  • 1920 P - 63,093,000
  • 1920 D - 9,418,000
  • 1920 S - 9,689,000
  • 1921 P - 10,663,000
  • 1921 S - 1,557,000
  • 1923 P - 35,715,000
  • 1923 S - 6,142,000
  • 1924 P - 21,620,000
  • 1924 D - 5,258,000
  • 1924 S - 1,437,000
  • 1925 P - 35,565,100
  • 1925 D - 4,450,000
  • 1925 S - 6,256,000
  • 1926 P - 44,693,000
  • 1926 D - 5,638,000
  • 1926 S - 970,000
  • 1927 P - 37,981,000
  • 1927 D - 5,730,000
  • 1927 S - 3,430,000
  • 1928 P - 23,411,000
  • 1928 D - 6,436,000
  • 1928 S - 6,936,000
  • 1929 P - 36,446,000
  • 1929 D - 8,370,000
  • 1929 S - 7,754,000
  • 1930 P - 22,849,000
  • 1930 S - 5,435,000
  • 1931 S - 1,200,000
  • 1934 P - 20,213,003
  • 1934 D - 7,480,000
  • 1935 P - 58,264,000
  • 1935 D - 12,092,000
  • 1935 S - 10,300,000
  • 1936 P - 119,001,420
  • 1936 D - 24,814,000
  • 1936 S - 14,930,000
  • 1937 P - 79,485,769
  • 1937 D - 17,826,000
  • 1937 S - 5,635,000
  • 1938 D - 7,020,000

Jefferson profile nickels, 1938–2003

  • 1938 P - 19,496,000
  • 1938 D - 5,376,000
  • 1938 S - 4,105,000
  • 1939 P - 120,615,000
  • 1939 P Doubled "MONTICELLO" and "FIVE CENTS" - Unknown
  • 1939 D - 3,514,000
  • 1939 S - 6,630,000
  • 1940 P - 176,485,000
  • 1940 D - 43,540,000
  • 1940 S - 39,690,000
  • 1941 P - 203,265,000
  • 1941 D - 53,432,000
  • 1941 S - 43,445,000
  • 1942 P - 49,789,000
  • 1942 D - 13,938,000

"War nickels" (35% silver, large mintmark above Monticello), 1942–1945

  • 1942 P - 57,900,000
  • 1942 S - 32,900,000
  • 1943 P - 271,165,000
  • 1943 D - 15,294,000
  • 1943 S - 104,060,000
  • 1944 P - 119,150,000
  • 1944 D - 32,309,000
  • 1944 S - 21,640,000
  • 1945 P - 119,408,100
  • 1945 D - 37,158,000
  • 1945 S - 58,939,000

pre-war composition resumes

  • 1946 P - 161,116,000
  • 1946 D - 45,292,200
  • 1946 S - 13,560,000
  • 1947 P - 95,000,000
  • 1947 D - 37,822,000
  • 1947 S - 24,720,000
  • 1948 P - 89,348,000
  • 1948 D - 44,734,000
  • 1948 S - 11,300,000
  • 1949 P - 60,652,000
  • 1949 D - 36,498,000
  • 1949 S - 9,716,000
  • 1950 P - 9,796,000
  • 1950 D - 2,630,030
  • 1951 P - 28,552,000
  • 1951 D - 20,460,000
  • 1951 S - 7,776,000
  • 1952 P - 63,988,000
  • 1952 D - 30,638,000
  • 1952 S - 20,572,000
  • 1953 P - 46,644,000
  • 1953 D - 59,878,600
  • 1953 S - 19,210,900
  • 1954 P - 47,684,050
  • 1954 D - 117,183,060
  • 1954 S - 29,384,000
  • 1955 P - 7,888,000
  • 1955 D - 74,464,100
  • 1956 P - 35,216,000
  • 1956 D - 67,222,940
  • 1957 P - 38,408,000
  • 1957 D - 136,828,900
  • 1958 P - 17,088,000
  • 1958 D - 168,249,120
  • 1959 P - 27,248,000
  • 1959 D - 160,738,240
  • 1960 P - 55,416,000
  • 1960 D - 192,582,180
  • 1961 P - 73,640,100
  • 1961 D - 229,342,760
  • 1962 P - 97,384,000
  • 1962 D - 280,195,720
  • 1963 P - 178,851,645
  • 1963 D - 276,829,460
  • 1964 P - 1,028,622,762
  • 1964 D - 1,787,297,160

(Nickels dated 1964 were still being minted well into 1966, contributing to their very high mintages. Mintmarks were temporarily suspended 1965–1967.)

  • 1965 - 136,131,380
  • 1966 - 156,208,283
  • 1967 - 107,325,800
  • 1968 D - 91,227,880
  • 1968 S - 100,396,004
  • 1969 D - 202,807,500
  • 1969 S - 120,075,000
  • 1970 D - 515,485,380
  • 1970 S - 238,832,004
  • 1971 P - 106,884,000
  • 1971 D - 316,144,800
  • 1972 P - 202,036,000
  • 1972 D - 351,694,600
  • 1973 P - 384,396,000
  • 1973 D - 361,405,000
  • 1974 P - 601,752,000
  • 1974 D - 277,373,000
  • 1975 P - 181,772,000
  • 1975 D - 401,875,300
  • 1976 P - 367,124,000
  • 1976 D - 563,964,147
  • 1977 P - 585,376,000
  • 1977 D - 297,313,422
  • 1978 P - 391,308,000
  • 1978 D - 313,092,780
  • 1979 P - 463,188,000
  • 1979 D - 325,867,672
  • 1980 P - 593,004,000
  • 1980 D - 502,323,448
  • 1981 P - 657,504,000
  • 1981 D - 364,801,843
  • 1982 P - 292,355,000
  • 1982 D - 373,726,544
  • 1983 P - 561,615,000
  • 1983 D - 536,726,276
  • 1984 P - 746,769,000
  • 1984 D - 517,675,146
  • 1985 P - 647,114,962
  • 1985 D - 459,747,446
  • 1986 P - 536,883,483
  • 1986 D - 361,819,140
  • 1987 P - 371,499,481
  • 1987 D - 410,590,604
  • 1988 P - 771,360,000
  • 1988 D - 663,771,652
  • 1989 P - 898,812,000
  • 1989 D - 570,842,474
  • 1990 P - 661,636,000
  • 1990 D - 663,938,503
  • 1991 P - 614,104,000
  • 1991 D - 436,496,678
  • 1992 P - 399,552,000
  • 1992 D - 450,565,113
  • 1993 P - 412,076,000
  • 1993 D - 406,084,135
  • 1994 P - 722,160,000
  • 1994 D - 715,762,110
  • 1995 P - 774,156,000
  • 1995 D - 888,112,000
  • 1996 P - 829,332,000
  • 1996 D - 817,736,000
  • 1997 P - 470,972,000
  • 1997 D - 466,640,000
  • 1998 P - 688,292,000
  • 1998 D - 635,380,000
  • 1999 P - 1,212,000,000
  • 1999 D - 1,066,720,000
  • 2000 P - 846,240,000
  • 2000 D - 1,509,520,000
  • 2001 P - 675,704,000
  • 2001 D - 627,680,000
  • 2002 P - 539,280,000
  • 2002 D - 691,200,000
  • 2003 P - 441,840,000
  • 2003 D - 383,040,000

Westward Journey nickel series, 2004–2005

  • 2004 P medal - 361,440,000
  • 2004 D medal - 372,000,000
  • 2004 P keelboat - 366,720,000
  • 2004 D keelboat - 344,880,000
  • 2005 P bison - 448,320,000
  • 2005 D bison - 487,680,000
  • 2005 P ocean - 394,080,000
  • 2005 D ocean - 411,120,000

Jefferson forward nickels, 2006–present

  • 2006 P - 693,120,000
  • 2006 D - 809,280,000
  • 2007 P - 571,680,000
  • 2007 D - 626,160,000
  • 2008 P - 279,840,000
  • 2008 D - 345,600,000
  • 2009 P - 39,840,000
  • 2009 D - 39,360,000
  • 2010 P - 97,680,000 (through August)
  • 2010 D - 147,840,000 (through August

 

Shield nickel

The Shield nickel was the first United States five cent piece to be made out of copper-nickel, the same alloy of which American nickels are struck today. Designed by James B. Longacre, the coin was issued from 1866 until 1883, when it was replaced by the Liberty Head nickel. The coin takes its name from the motif on its obverse, and was the first coin referred to as a "nickel"—silver five-cent pieces had been known as half dimes.

Half dimes had been struck from the early days of the United States Mint in the late 18th century. Those disappeared from circulation, along with most other coins, in the economic turmoil of the Civil War. In 1864, the Mint successfully introduced low-denomination coins, whose intrinsic worth did not approach their face value. Industrialist Joseph Wharton advocated coins containing nickel—a metal in which he had significant financial interests. When the Mint proposed a copper-nickel five-cent piece, Congress required that the coin be heavier than the Mint had suggested, allowing Wharton to sell more of the metal to the government.

Longacre's design was based on his two-cent pieces, and symbolizes the strength of a unified America. The nickel proved difficult to strike, and the reverse, or tails, design was modified in 1867. Even so, production difficulties continued, causing many minor varieties which are collected today. Minting of the Shield nickel for circulation was suspended in 1876 for a period of over two years, and it was struck in only small quantities until 1882. The following year, the coin was replaced by Charles E. Barber's Liberty head design.

Five-cent pieces had been struck by the United States Mint since 1792; they were the first coins struck by Mint authorities. These half dimes (originally spelled "half dismes"), were struck in silver. The alloy used was originally .892 silver with the remainder copper; the silver portion was increased, beginning in 1837, to .900. The Civil War caused most American coins to vanish from circulation, with the gap filled by such means as merchant tokens, encased postage stamps, and United States fractional currency, issued in denomination as low as three cents. Although specie (gold or silver coins) was hoarded or exported, the copper-nickel cent, then the only base metal denomination being struck, also vanished. In 1864, Congress began the process of restoring coins to circulation by abolishing the three-cent note and authorizing bronze cents and two-cent pieces, with low intrinsic values, to be struck. These new coins initially proved popular, though the two-cent piece soon faded from circulation. On March 3, 1865, Congress passed legislation authorizing the Mint to strike three-cent pieces of 75% copper and 25% nickel.

In 1864, Congress had authorized a third series of fractional currency notes. The five-cent note was to bear a portrait of "Clark", but Congress was appalled when the issue came out not bearing a portrait of William Clark, the explorer, but Spencer M. Clark, head of the Currency Bureau. According to numismatic historian Walter Breen, Congress's "immediate infuriated response was to pass a law retiring the 5¢ denomination, and another to forbid portrayal of any living person on federal coins or currency." Clark only kept his job because of the personal intervention of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. Mint Director James Pollock had been opposed to striking coins containing nickel, but in view of the initial success of the copper-nickel three-cent piece, he became an advocate of striking five-cent pieces in the same metal. In his 1865 report, Pollock wrote, "From this nickel alloy, a coin for the denomination of five cents, and which would be a popular substitute for the five cent note, could easily be made ... [The five cent coin should be struck in base metal] only until the resumption of specie payments ... in time of peace ... coins of inferior alloy should not be permitted to take the place permanently of silver in the coinage of pieces above the denomination of three cents."Industrialist Joseph Wharton had a near-monopoly on the mining of nickel in the United States, and sought to promote its use in coinage. He was also highly influential in Congress. His friends there, though they had failed to obtain the metal's use for the two-cent piece, had been more successful with the three-cent coin. Pollock prepared a bill authorizing a five-cent coin of the same alloy as the three-cent piece, and a total weight not to exceed 60 grains (3.9 g). At the committee stage in the House of Representatives, the weight was amended to 77.19 grains (5.00 g), ostensibly to make the weight equal to five grams in the metric system but more likely so that Wharton could sell more nickel. This made the new coin heavy in comparison to the three-cent copper-nickel coin. The bill passed without debate on May 16, 1866. The new copper-nickel coin was legal tender for up to one dollar, and would be paid out by the Treasury in exchange for coin of the United States, excluding the half cent, cent and two-cent. It was redeemable in lots of $100 for banknotes. Fractional currency in denominations of less than ten cents was withdrawn.

Since coinage was to begin immediately, it was necessary for the Mint's chief engraver, James B. Longacre to prepare a design as quickly as possible. With the five cent authorization bill pending in Congress, Longacre had produced patterns as early as late 1865. Longacre produced pattern coins, one with a shield similar to the design he had prepared for the two-cent piece. Longacre altered the two-cent design by shifting the location of the two arrows in the design, removed the scroll on which "In God We Trust" had been inscribed (the first time that motto had appeared on a U.S. coin), and added a cross, apparently intending a pattee to the top of the shield. Another pattern depicted Washington, while another showed the recently assassinated president, Abraham Lincoln. Reverse designs proposed by Longacre included one with a number 5 within a circle of thirteen stars, each separated from the next by rays. Another reverse design featured the numeral within a wreath. Treasury Secretary Hugh McCulloch, acting on Pollock's recommendation, selected the shield design for the obverse, or "heads" side, and the stars and rays design for the reverse. Pollock did not show McCulloch the Lincoln design, believing it would not be well-received in the South.
According to numismatic author Q. David Bowers, Longacre's obverse design is "one of the most patriotic motifs in American coinage". Based on the coat of arms from the Great Seal of the United States of America, Longacre's design focused on the shield, or escutcheon as a defensive weapon, symbolizing strength and self-protection through unity. The upper part of the shield, or "chief", symbolizes Congress, while the 13 vertical stripes, or "paleways" symbolize the states; consequently the entire escutcheon symbolizes the strength of the federal government through the unity of the states. The crossed arrows, whose ends are visible near the bottom of the shield, symbolize nonaggression, but imply readiness against attack. The laurel branches, taken from Greek tradition, symbolize victory. In heraldic engraving, vertical lines represent red, clear areas white and horizontal lines blue, thus the escutcheon is colored red, white and blue and is meant to evoke the American flag. Bowers does not consider the reverse design an artistic work, but one which is purely mechanical, obtained by punching characters and devices into a steel hub. The new coins proved difficult to produce; due to the hardness of the planchet, the coins were not of high quality and the life of the striking dies was brief. The design of the coins was widely criticized, with Wharton describing the shield design as suggesting "a tombstone surmounted by a cross and overhung by weeping willows." The American Journal of Numismatics described it as "the ugliest of all known coins". More seriously, the reverse design reminded many of the "stars and bars" motif of the defeated Confederate States. The rays were eliminated from the design in early 1867, in the hopes of eliminating some of the production problems. The transition to the new design was to occur on February 1, 1867, but it is likely the mint used up the remaining dies with the old design in the interest of economy. The design change created confusion among the population, with many people assuming one design or the other was a counterfeit, and the Mint considered abandoning the shield design entirely. Seeking alternatives to the difficult-to-work copper-nickel alloy, in June 1867 Longacre proposed that the five-cent piece be struck in aluminum. The new Mint director, Henry Linderman, objected to the proposal, stating that the price and supply of aluminum were as yet uncertain, and that the metal was too expensive to use in a minor coin. Numismatic historian Don Taxay, in his history of the United States Mint and its coins, noted that Linderman had proposed legislation increasing the proportion of nickel in the alloy to a third despite having earlier opposed the use of nickel in coins. Taxay suggested that Linderman was most likely influenced by Wharton and the metal's other advocates. By late 1869, enough nickels, as the coin came to be called, had been produced to meet the needs of commerce, and production dropped off. The new coins tended to accumulate in the hands of merchants beyond the legal tender limit, but banks refused to accept them beyond the one-dollar maximum. Storeowners were forced to discount the coins to brokers. Postmasters, compelled by law to accept the coins, found that the Treasury would not accept them as deposits except in lots of $100, in accordance with the authorizing statute. In 1871, Congress alleviated the problem by passing legislation allowing the Treasury to redeem unlimited quantities of nickels and other low-denomination coins when presented in lots of not less than $20. It would not be until 1933, long after the shield design passed from the scene, that the nickel was made legal tender without limit. The Mint Act of 1873 ended the production of the half dime. Despite the abolition, the silver pieces continued to circulate in the West, where silver or gold coins were preferred, and the nickel was disliked, throughout the remainder of the 19th century. The act also gave the Mint Director the authority to suspend production of any denomination if additional coins were not needed. Improved economic conditions, combined with low silver prices, brought large quantities of hoarded silver coinage, including half dimes, into circulation beginning in April 1876. In late 1876, production of the Shield nickel was halted under the 1873 act. No Shield nickels were struck in 1877 or 1878, excepting proof specimens for collectors. As the Treasury had a large stock of nickels in storage, only small numbers were struck over the next few years; full-scale production began again on December 12, 1881. The 1880 nickel, with only 16,000 pieces struck for circulation, remains the rarest non-proof Shield nickel today.

A closeup of part of an 1873 Shield nickel, showing the date, in which the arms of the "3" reach close to each other
1873 "closed 3" variety
A closeup of part of an 1873 Shield nickel; the arms of the "3" curve only slightly towards each other
1873 "open 3" variety

The Shield nickel series has yielded a large number of varieties. Howard Spindel, a leading expert on Shield nickels, notes that Shield nickel dies produced far fewer coins than other coin dies, as the dies wore out so fast that the Mint was continually under great pressure to produce new ones. According to Spindel, many dies were hastily and carelessly produced, producing numerous minor varieties. Bowers points to the 1868 nickel as "a playground for repunching [repunched dates], errors, and the like". Specialists have found more than sixty different doubled die varieties, caused by misalignment when the heated die was repeatedly pressed against the hub to transfer the design. There are several different kinds of repunched dates, including a variety in which the numeral "1" is much smaller than usually found on the Shield nickel. As with many denominations of United States coins, there are two major varieties of the 1873 piece. The initial variety, known as the "close 3" or "closed 3" was struck first. These coins led to a complaint by the chief coiner, A. Loudon Snowden, to Pollock, who was again director of the Mint. Snowden stated that the numeral "3" in the date too closely resembled an "8". The Mint prepared new date punches, in which the arms of the 3 did not curl around toward the center, creating the second variety, the "open 3". The final year of production saw an overdate, 1883/2, with a visible "2" under or near the digit "3". This variety was caused by the use of 1882-dated dies which were not destroyed at the end of the year, but were instead repunched with a four-digit logotype, "1883". Five different dies are known to have been so reused, and Bowers estimates a mintage of 118,975 pieces. Spindel estimates that only 0.2%–0.3% of the pieces have survived to the present.
The 1867 redesign of the reverse had not solved the problems of short die life and poor striking; with a view to a redesign, pattern coins were struck in 1868 and 1871, but the Shield nickel remained in production. Charles E. Barber became chief engraver in 1880, and the following year was asked to produce uniform designs for the nickel, the three-cent piece, and a proposed copper-nickel cent. While the redesign of the two lower denominations did not occur, in 1882, Barber's design for the nickel, with a Liberty head on the obverse and the Roman numeral "V" on the reverse, was approved. The following year the Barber design replaced the Shield nickel. Shield nickels dated 1883 had already been coined by the time the Barber design was ready, and Mint officials desired to discourage speculation. Accordingly, they kept the shield design in production for several months side by side with what became known as the Liberty Head nickel. Almost a million and a half Shield nickels were struck in 1883. Coinage of the Shield nickel was ended on June 26, 1883. Mintages

Year Proofs Circulation strikes
1866 600+ 14,742,500
1867 with rays 25+ 2,019,000
1867 without rays 600+ 28,890,500
1868 600+ 28,817,000
1869 600+ 16,395,000
1870 1,000+ 4,806,000
1871 960+ 561,000
1872 950+ 6,036,000
1873 closed 3 1,100+ 436,050 (est.)
1873 open 3 0 4,113,950 (est.)
1874 700+ 3,538,000
1875 700+ 2,097,000
1876 1,150+ 2,530,000
1877 proof only 510+ 0
1878 proof only 2,350 0
1879 3,200 25,900
1880 3,955 16,000
1881 3,575 68,800
1882 3,100 11,472,900
1883 5,419 1,451,500

Shield nickel proof mintages from before 1878 are modern estimates and may vary—for example, Bowers estimates 800–1,200 for the 1866 piece, while Peters estimates 375+. The issue is complicated by the fact that restrikes were made of proofs, sometimes years after the inscribed date. Mint officials, despite what Bowers terms "official denials (a.k.a. lies)", reused dies which had supposedly been destroyed to strike pieces for favored collectors or dealers. This practice led to incongruous pieces, with a dated obverse mated with a reverse not placed in use until years later.

All pieces struck at the Philadelphia mint, without mintmark.

 

 

1965
 
 
 
1965 D    
    
 
 
1966
 
 
 
1966 D
 
 
 
1967
 
 
 
1967 D
 
 
 
1968
 
 
 
1968 D
 
 
 
1969
 
 
 
1969 D
 
 
 
1970
 
 
 
1970 D
 
 
 
1971
 
 
 
1971 D
 
 
 
1972
 
 
 
1972 D
 
 
 
1973
 
 
 
1973 D
 
 
 
1974
 
 
 
1974 D
 
 
 
1975
 
 
 
1975 D
 
 
 
1976
 
 
 
1976 D
 
 
 
1977
 
 
 
1977 D
 
 
 
1978
 
 
 
1978 D
 
 
 
1979
 
 
 
1979 D
 
 
 
1980
 
 
 
1980 D
 
 
 
1981
 
 
 
1981 D
 
 
 
1982
 
 
 
1982 D
 
 
 
1983
 
 
 
1983 D
 
 
 
1984
 
 
 
1984 D
 
 
 
1985
 
 
 
1985 D
 
 
 
1986
 
 
 
1986 D
 
 
 
1987
 
 
 
1987 D
 
 
 
1988
 
 
 
1988 D
 
 
 
1989
 
 
 
1989 D
 
 
 
1990
 
 
 
1990 D
 
 
 
1991
 
 
 
1991 D
 
 
 
1992
 
 
 
1992 D
 
 
 
1993
 
 
 
1993 D
 
 
 
1994
 
 
 
1994 D
 
 
 
1995
 
 
 
1995 D
 
 
 
1996
 
 
 
1996 D
 
 
 
1997
 
 
 
1997 D
 
 
 
1998
 
 
 
1998 D
 
 
 
1999
 
 
 
1999 D
 
 
 
2000
 
 
 
2000 D
 
 
 
2001
 
 
 
2001 D
 
 
 
2002
 
 
 
2002 D
 
 
 
2003
 
 
 
2003 D
 
 
 
2004
 
 
 
2004 D
 
 
 
2005
 
 
 
2005 D
 
 
 
2006
 
 
 
2006 D
 
 
 
2007
 
 
 
2007 D
 
 
 
2008
 
 
 
2008 D
 
 
 
2009
 
 
 
2009 D
 
 
 
2010
 
 
 
2010 D

                  

    

      

            

         

      

 

 

 

 

            

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great coins for finding the one nickel you need to complete a birth set, or complete your coin series.
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 JEFFERSON NICKEL