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Who Is On the Nickel?

Who Is On the Nickel?

September 27, 20232486 view(s)

The U.S. nickel prominently features Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States and the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. His image on the nickel is a testament to his significant role in shaping the nation's foundation. On the reverse side, we find Monticello, Jefferson's renowned Virginia home. This design choice highlights his contributions beyond politics, including his impact on American architecture.

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The nickel, though a common coin, carries a weighty history. As we examine the nickel's journey, we'll discuss its design evolution, the importance of its symbols, and its place in U.S. coinage. Whether you're an investor or just curious about everyday currency, understanding the nickel provides insight into America's past.

What Are Some Notable Nickel Designs?

First struck in 1866, the nickel has undergone various design transformations, each echoing the nation's evolving identity and values. The coin has been primarily used for circulation and featured a variety of significant historical figures and symbols throughout its history. 


The first nickels, minted in 1866, featured a portrait of Liberty on the obverse and a spread eagle on the reverse. In 1883, the design was changed to feature a portrait of Thomas Jefferson on the obverse and a shield on the reverse. This design has remained unchanged ever since.

In addition to Thomas Jefferson, the nickel has also featured other significant historical figures and images, such as Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, John Smith, the Spread Eagle, the Shield, the Torch of Liberty, and Monticello.

The Shield Nickel (1866-1883)

The Shield Nickel was the U.S.'s first five-cent coin made of nickel and copper. Its design was emblematic of the nation's resilience and unity, especially in the aftermath of the Civil War. On the obverse, it featured a large numeral "5" encircled by stars, while a shield dominated the reverse. This shield symbolized the nation's strength and unity during a time of reconstruction and healing.

The Liberty Head or "V" Nickel (1883-1913)

The "V" Nickel, also known as the Liberty Head Nickel, showcased the Liberty Head on the obverse, representing freedom and the nation's ideals. On the reverse, a bold spread eagle took center stage, a symbol of American freedom, strength, and the country's growing confidence on the global stage.

The Buffalo Nickel (1913-1938)

This iconic coin was highly sought after and featured a Native American figure on the obverse, representing the indigenous tribes of America. The reverse showcased the majestic American bison, symbolizing the country's wild frontier and the untamed spirit of the nation. This design was later repurposed for the Gold American Buffalo coin.

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The Westward Journey Nickel Series (2004-2005)

This series commemorated the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In 2004, designs included the images of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their historic journey and Captain John Smith's interaction with a Native American, representing the establishment of Jamestown. These designs celebrated the spirit of exploration and the nation's early interactions with indigenous tribes.

The Jefferson Nickel (1938-Present)

The most enduring design, the Jefferson Nickel, has featured the profile of Thomas Jefferson since 1938. This representation not only pays tribute to Jefferson's pivotal role in drafting the Declaration of Independence but also reflects his vision for the nation. On the reverse, Monticello, Jefferson's iconic home, stands as a testament to his multifaceted contributions, from politics to architecture.


Each nickel iteration offers a rich tapestry of stories, celebrating the nation's heroes, achievements, and symbols that have shaped its identity.

What Do the Nickel's Designs Say About Our National Legacy?

The design of the nickel has undergone several transformations throughout its history, each echoing the nation's evolving identity and values. The first nickels, featuring a portrait of Liberty, reflected the nation's commitment to democracy and freedom. This portrayal of Liberty, a symbol of hope and aspiration, was a testament to the country's foundational belief in individual rights and the pursuit of happiness.


The nickels featuring Thomas Jefferson reflected the nation's reverence for its Founding Fathers. Jefferson, as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, embodies the spirit of innovation, vision, and leadership. His presence on the coin serves as a constant reminder of the sacrifices and visionary ideals that laid the groundwork for the nation.


The nickels featuring the Torch of Liberty and Monticello reflected the nation's commitment to equality and progress. The Torch, a beacon of enlightenment, signifies the nation's ongoing journey towards knowledge, understanding, and the betterment of its people. Monticello, Jefferson's architectural masterpiece, symbolizes American ingenuity, creativity, and the melding of classical ideals with new-world innovation.


Together, these designs encapsulate the core values that have guided the United States through its challenges and triumphs, serving as tangible reminders of its rich heritage and the principles it holds dear.

Why Is the Nickel Culturally Significant?

Beyond its small but mighty circulation in cash registers and vending machines, the nickel has played a role in shaping national conversations. Each of its varying designs has served as a mirror to the nation's evolving ideals of democracy, freedom, and progress. They've often sparked discussions about America's past, its present challenges, and its aspirations for the future. 


From classrooms to collector's forums, the nickel has been a tool for education, reflection, and dialogue. In many ways, it has been a bridge connecting generations and reminding them of the shared values that bind the nation together. The nickel continues to influence our cultural narrative through its subtle artistry, underscoring the importance of individual and collective growth.

Who is on the nickel coin obverse?

How Can I Find Out More About Adding Commemorative Nickels to My Portfolio?

Adding commemorative coins to your portfolio can be a strategic move. On the one hand, you get a tangible piece of history, a testament to the nation's evolving values and ideals. On the other hand, these coins often carry a numismatic value that can appreciate over time, offering potential financial benefits.


As trusted leaders in the industry, the U.S. Gold Bureau is committed to ensuring that you have all the information you need to make informed decisions. Whether you're a seasoned collector or just starting out, chat with us live or call us at 800-775-3504 to speak with a precious metals advisor.


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