1938-1942 - Jefferson Nickel
The Jefferson nickel has been the five-cent coin struck by the United States Mint since 1938, when it replaced the Buffalo nickel. Since 2006, the copper-nickel coin's obverse has featured a forward-facing portrayal of early US President Thomas Jefferson by Jamie Franki. The coin's reverse is the original by Felix Schlag; in 2004 and 2005, the piece bore commemorative designs.
First struck in 1913, the Buffalo nickel had long been difficult to coin, and after it completed the 25-year term during which it could only be replaced by Congress, the Mint moved quickly to replace it with a new design. The Mint conducted a design competition in early 1938, requiring that Jefferson be depicted on the obverse, and Jefferson's house Monticello on the reverse. Schlag won the competition, but was required to submit an entirely new reverse and make other changes before the new piece went into production in October 1938.
As nickel was a strategic war material during World War II, nickels coined from 1942 to 1945 were struck in a copper-silver-manganese alloy which would not require adjustment to vending machines. They bear a large mint mark above the depiction of Monticello on the reverse. In 2004 and 2005, the nickel saw new designs as part of the Westward Journey nickel series, and since 2006 has borne Schlag's reverse and Franki's obverse.
Obverse (heads): Has featured, since 2006, the Thomas Jefferson likeness based on a Rembrandt Peale portrait completed in 1800. Peale’s portrait was the basis for most of the images of Jefferson made during his lifetime. Inscriptions are IN GOD WE TRUST, Liberty (in cursive, based on Jefferson’s handwriting), and the year.
Reverse (tails): Features the classic rendition of Monticello originally executed by artist Felix Schlag, but with greater detail and relief added in the dome, balconies, door, and windows in 2006.
Today, we refer to the five-cent coin as a nickel, but that was not always the case—the first five-cent coin was made of silver. This silver five-cent coin was called a "half disme" (pronounced "dime") and was much smaller than today’s nickel. Congress required the United States Mint to produce a new five-cent coin made of nickel and copper in 1866, but the smaller silver half disme was still made until 1873.
Jefferson took his place on the obverse of the nickel in 1938 with Monticello, his Virginia home, on the reverse. These designs, both by Felix Schlag, were produced until 2003. In 2004, the United States Mint began commemorating the bicentennials of the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark Expedition with the Westward Journey Nickel Series™. The nickel’s current design is the last of that series.
Value 5 cents (0.05 US dollars)
Mass 5.000 g
Diameter 21.21 mm
(mid-1942 to 1945)
Years of minting 1938 – present
Mint marks D, S, P. Located from 1938 to 1964 to the right of Monticello, except for "wartime nickels" which have a large mint mark above Monticello. No mint marks used from 1965 to 1967. From 1968 to 2004, slightly clockwise from the last digit of the date. In 2005, under "Liberty". Since 2006, under the date. Philadelphia Mint specimens before 1980 lack mint mark, except for wartime nickels, which have a P for Philadelphia if struck there.
Quick Coinage Facts
Years Minted: 1938-Present
Number of Types: 7
Mints: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco
Types 1,3-7 Composition: 0.750 copper, 0.250 nickel
Type 2 Composition: 0.560 copper, 0.350 silver, 0.090 manganese
Diameter: 21.2 mm
Weight: 5 grams
Total Mintage Type 1: 42,535,494,099
Total Mintage Type 2: 869,896,100
Total Mintage Type 3: 733,440,000
Total Mintage Type 4: 711,600,000
Total Mintage Type 5: 936,000,000
Total Mintage Type 6: 805,200,000
Total Mintage Type 7: still in production
For years the Jefferson Nickel has been an unappreciated coin but dutifully served as a coinage workhorse in our everyday business transactions and was a coin that the public routinely took for granted. By 1990, its purchasing power had dwindled to almost nothing and collector interest was waning even faster. It wasn’t until 2004, when a series of circulating nickel commemoratives program dubbed the Westward Journey Nickel Series appeared and interest in the Jefferson series picked up once again.
With more than 70 years of circulation the Jefferson Nickel was modified multiple times creating different type coins for collectors today. To complete a type set of Jefferson Nickels one has two acquire 7 different type coins.
Type 1 (1938-1942, 1946-2003)
– Featured an obverse portrait of Jefferson facing left designed by Felix Schlag. Type 1 coins were minted from 1938 to 2003 with only a short break in coinage during World War II (1943-1945)
Type 2 (1942-1945) WWII Silver
– Featured the same design as a type 1 coin except its composition was changed to a copper, silver, and manganese mix as nickel was needed for the war efforts. To differentiate from regular issues a large letter mint mark was added to the reverse just above dome of the Monticello home. This represented the first coin to ever carry a Philadelphia mint mark.
Type 3 (2004) Peace Medal
– Featured the traditional Felix Schlag obverse design. The reverse design is based on the original Jefferson Peace Medal which incorporates the design of the hand of a Native American and the hand of a European-American clasped in a friendly handshake below a crossed pipe and tomahawk. The words "Louisiana Purchase" are inscribed above the date of the purchase, 1803. The reverse was designed by Norman E. Nemeth.
Type 4 (2004) Keelboat
- Featured the traditional Felix Schlag obverse design. The reverse design features the keelboat that was part of the transportation for Lewis and Clark's expedition. In this Keelboat Nickel design, captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark are standing on deck at the start of their famous trip. The reverse was designed by Al Maletsky.
Type 5 (2005) Bison
– Featured a new obverse design of Jefferson created by Joe Fitzgerald. This design is unique on circulating coinage in that it only shows half of jeffersons profile, and includes the cursive "Liberty" inscription, modeled after Jefferson’s own handwriting. The reverse design features the American bison, also called a buffalo. This animal used to roam the plains in such great numbers that the animal was noted often by Lewis and Clark in their journals. The reverse was designed by Jamie N. Franki.
Type 6 (2005) Ocean In View
– Featured the same obverse design as the 2005 Bison issue but the reverse design depicts a view of the Pacific Ocean, the goal that the Lewis and Clark Expedition reached after more than a year of hard travel. The scene surrounds a quote written by Captain Clark: "Ocean in view! O! The joy!" The everse was designed by Joe Fitzgerald.
Type 7 (2006-present) Return to Monticello
– Featured yet another new obverse portrait design of Jefferson based on a Rembrandt Peale portrait completed in 1800. The 3/4 view portrait showed Jefferson as Vice President at 57 years of age, and continues the use of the Cursve "Liberty" introduced in 2005. This design was executed by The United States Mint's Artistic Infusion Program Master Designer Jamie Franki and engraved by Sculptor-Engraver Donna Weaver. The reverse was returned to Felix Schlag’s depiction of Jefferson’s Monticello home.
5 Cents "Jefferson Nickel" 1st portrait
Country United States
Value 5 Cents = Half Dime / Nickel (0.05 USD)
Weight 5 g
Diameter 21.21 mm
Thickness 1.79 mm
Engraver Felix Schlag
Orientation Coin alignment ↑↓