The U.S. Nickel, Four 20th Century Designs

Date: 1883 - 1945
United States

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Item Description:

This set of four coins shows the evolution of the U.S. nickel, with examples of each major design change over the 20th century. Included are a Liberty Head nickel, a Buffalo nickel, a pre-WWII Jefferson nickel (made from copper-nickel), and a Jefferson silver war nickel.

The set includes a Certificate of Authenticity.

Liberty Head Nickel (1883 - 1913):

Sometimes referred to as the “V” nickel after the design on the reverse side, the Liberty Head nickel was designed by Chief Engraver of the United States Charles E. Barber and was struck from 1883 until 1912. Originally, mint officials had not deemed it necessary to add the word “cents” to the coin; however, inventive scammers realized the nickel was similar in diameter to the $5 gold piece, and if plated in gold, could be passed off for the higher amount. The design was updated in June of 1883 to include the word “cents.”

Buffalo Nickel (1913 - 1938):

The law of 1890 prohibited the reminting of denominational coin designs more than once every 25 years, although Barber himself conceived of a new design for the nickel as early as 1909. The new design, struck in 1913, was created by sculptor James Earle Fraser, featuring a Native American portrait on the obverse and a buffalo on the reverse. In a 1947 interview, Fraser stated, “I felt I wanted to do something totally American—a coin that could not be mistaken for any other country's coin. It occurred to me that the buffalo, as part of our western background, was 100% American and that our North American Indian fitted into the picture perfectly.” However, due to design flaws, the dates were easily worn off the infamous buffalo nickel and the design was replaced in 1938 after its 25-year run without controversy.

Jefferson Copper-nickel (1938 - 1941, then 1946 - 2004):

In January 1938, a contest was held for a new design for the nickel. Contestants were given guidelines that a portrait of Thomas Jefferson be created for the obverse, and a rendition of his estate, Monticello, be used on the reverse. Felix Schlag was the announced winner, and the nickel went into production at all three mints in 1938. The nickel included in this set will be dated between 1938 and 1941.

Jefferson Silver War Nickel (1942 - 1945):

As the United States entered into World War II, nickel became a critical resource. In March of 1942, Congress authorized the content of the nickel be shifted to 50% silver and 50% copper, but also granted the Mint authority to alter the proportions as necessary. All “wartime nickels” were struck with a large mintmark above the Monticello, in an attempt to make them easier to sort out after the war. Some scholars suggest that the altered composition did not contribute significantly to the war effort, but did however symbolize the need for sacrifices on behalf of citizens for victory. The original design and composition of the Jefferson Nickel resumed in 1946.


Your order will include:

  • The historical item(s) shown above
  • Glass top leatherette display box
  • Information card and Certificate of Authenticity

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