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Nickels
 
 
The Five-Cent coin was first authorized by the Act of April 2, 1792, that was
passed by Congress.  However, this coin was known as a Half Dime and was
struck in silver until 1873.  In 1866, the U.S. Mint introduced a new type of
Five-Cent coin – a larger coin struck in .750 copper and .250 nickel that soon
became known as a Nickel.  As a result, between 1866 and 1873, there were
two different types of Five-Cent coins in circulation, the Silver Half Dime and
the Nickel.
 
 
The first Nickel in 1866 was the Shield Nickel.  The obverse of this coin features
a shield, while the reverse shows the denomination.  In 1883, the Liberty Head
Nickel was struck for the first time.  The reverse of the first coins in 1883 had a
large “V” (Roman “5”) but no notation of the word “Cents.”  Crooks gold-plated
some of these coins and tried to pass them off as $5 gold coins, which were about
the same size.  The U.S. Mint quickly added the word “Cents” under the “V”
to stop the scams.
 
 
The next Nickel was the Buffalo Nickel in 1913.  This coin is generally regarded
as one of the most beautiful and most purely “American” coins ever made.  It
features a Native American on the obverse and a buffalo on the reverse.  The
Jefferson Nickel, which honors Thomas Jefferson, replaced the Buffalo Nickel
in 1938.  During World War II from 1942 to1945, the Nickel was made in .350
silver to help save nickel for the war effort.
 
 
In 2004 and 2005, the U.S. Mint struck the first-ever commemorative Nickels. 
Known as the “Westward Journey” Nickels, the four coins (two each year)
celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which took
place during Jefferson’s Presidency.  These commemorative Nickels were issued
for circulation.