United States Nickels

Nickels, as five-cent coins are commonly known in the United States, were first issued in 1866. Before then, this denomination was filled by the half dime. Half dimes were the first coins produced under federal legislation by the U.S. Mint and were made out of silver. With the introduction of the shield design in 1866, the five-cent coin was redesigned to use a copper-nickel alloy instead of silver, which gave rise to the term nickel for the denomination.

Shield nickels were very unpopular due their design, which many considered ugly, as well as their low quality. The next nickel to be issued was the Liberty head, colloquially known as the V nickel due to the prominent Roman numeral on the reverse of the coin. The Liberty head was designed by Charles Barber, a notable chief engraver who was responsible for several other public issue coin designs and commemorative issues. The Liberty head run features perhaps the rarest of all nickels: the 1913 nickel. Only five 1913 Liberty heads were ever made, and it remains unknown today how they came to exist since the run was canceled in 1912. Two of the five are displayed in the Smithsonian's national collection, while the other three are owned privately.

The next nickel was the buffalo design, which ran from 1913 to 1938. While it was nominally well received, the buffalo design proved to age poorly, with the date on the coin often wearing off completely. Today's Jefferson nickel was introduced in 1938. The Jefferson nickel was unchanged until 2004 to 2005, at which point two commemorative circulating reverse designs were issued: one for the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the other for the Louisiana Purchase. In 2006, the obverse of the coin was changed. Although it still features Thomas Jefferson, his head is now facing forward instead of to the side.


Quick Facts

  • According to legend, the silver used to create the first half dimes came from George Washington's home silverware
  • A 1913 Liberty head nickel sold at auction for $3.7 million in 2010. A different specimen was also the first ever coin to break the $1 million sale barrier in 1996
  • War nickels issued from 1942 to 1945 did not have any nickel content. Rather, they were an alloy of silver and copper, as nickel was a valuable war resource for armor plating on tanks and other vehicles

Recommended Items at Auction

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1937-D Three Legged Buffalo Nickel
Nov 27, 10:00 AM EST
1937-D Three Legged Buffalo Nickel
by Mebane Antique Auction
Est: $100- $10,000
$52518 Bids
1912-S V Nickel Liberty Visible Key Date
Oct 19, 5:00 PM EDT
1912-S V Nickel Liberty Visible Key Date
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$327 Bids
Modern Hobo Nickel - 1935-S Buffalo Head Indian
Oct 18, 5:00 PM EDT
Modern Hobo Nickel - 1935-S Buffalo Head Indian
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$176 Bids
Roll of Silver War Nickels, 1945-1943
Oct 19, 5:00 PM EDT
Roll of Silver War Nickels, 1945-1943
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$425 Bids
1943-P NGC MS66 5FS Jefferson Silver Nickel RARE FULL STEPS!!!
Oct 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1943-P NGC MS66 5FS Jefferson Silver Nickel RARE FULL STEPS!!!
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$405 Bids
424 BUFFALO NICKELS
Oct 19, 11:00 AM EDT
424 BUFFALO NICKELS
by Silver City Auctions
Est: $900- $1,000
$264 Bids
Original 1883 Shield Nickel
Oct 21, 5:00 PM EDT
Original 1883 Shield Nickel
by Mebane Antique Auction
Est: $10- $1,000
$134 Bids
Roll of Buffalo Nickels, Full Date 1937 -P
Oct 19, 5:00 PM EDT
Roll of Buffalo Nickels, Full Date 1937 -P
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$144 Bids
The National Coin Album - Jefferson Head Nickels - 1938-1956 - Collected in a 2 Ring Binder
Oct 18, 5:00 PM EDT
The National Coin Album - Jefferson Head Nickels - 1938-1956 - Collected in a 2 Ring Binder
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$124 Bids
Proof ***Auction Highlight*** 1890 TOP POP! Liberty Nickel 5c Graded pr66 By SEGS (fc)
Oct 18, 5:45 PM EDT
Proof ***Auction Highlight*** 1890 TOP POP! Liberty Nickel 5c Graded pr66 By SEGS (fc)
by Key Date Coins, Inc.
Est: $362- $725
$103 Bids
1955 PROOF Jefferson Nickel NGC PF68 Near Perfection!!
Oct 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1955 PROOF Jefferson Nickel NGC PF68 Near Perfection!!
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$553 Bids
Roll of Buffalo Nickels, Full Date 1937 -P
Oct 19, 5:00 PM EDT
Roll of Buffalo Nickels, Full Date 1937 -P
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$143 Bids
1918-D Buffalo Nickel Tough Date Nice Mid Grade!
Oct 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1918-D Buffalo Nickel Tough Date Nice Mid Grade!
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$553 Bids
Twentieth Century Type Coin Set - Includes GEM UNC Dollars, W.L. 50c, Buffalo Nickel, & More!!
Oct 18, 5:00 PM EDT
Twentieth Century Type Coin Set - Includes GEM UNC Dollars, W.L. 50c, Buffalo Nickel, & More!!
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$1153 Bids
3 Coin Collection Albums
Oct 21, 6:00 PM CDT
3 Coin Collection Albums
by Easterly Auction Company
Est: $0- $0
$122 Bids
1914-D BUFFALO NICKEL VF
Oct 21, 11:00 AM EDT
1914-D BUFFALO NICKEL VF
by Silver City Auctions
Est: $130- $150
$352 Bids
1929 HOBO Hand Caved Nickel - Neat Donkey
Oct 19, 5:00 PM EDT
1929 HOBO Hand Caved Nickel - Neat Donkey
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$22 Bids
60 MIXED DATE BUFFALO NICKELS 1917-1937
Oct 19, 11:00 AM EDT
60 MIXED DATE BUFFALO NICKELS 1917-1937
by Silver City Auctions
Est: $80- $100
$102 Bids
1866 Shield Nickel w/ Rays - HUGE LUSTER!!! RARE IN HIGH GRADE!!!
Oct 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1866 Shield Nickel w/ Rays - HUGE LUSTER!!! RARE IN HIGH GRADE!!!
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$1852 Bids
Jefferson Nickel Album
Oct 22, 6:00 PM CDT
Jefferson Nickel Album
by Easterly Auction Company
Est: $0- $0
$122 Bids
100 MIXED DATE BUFFALO NICKELS (1915-37)
Oct 21, 11:00 AM EDT
100 MIXED DATE BUFFALO NICKELS (1915-37)
by Silver City Auctions
Est: $90- $110
$102 Bids
1913-S TY2 Buffalo Head Nickel CLOSELY UNC
Oct 22, 5:30 PM CDT
1913-S TY2 Buffalo Head Nickel CLOSELY UNC
by Gold Standard Auctions
Est: $100- $10,000
$52 Bids
1867 3 Cent Nickel - Nice Details
Oct 19, 5:00 PM EDT
1867 3 Cent Nickel - Nice Details
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$42 Bids

Sellers Who Sell United States Nickels


Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer

Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer

Silver City Auctions

Silver City Auctions

Designer Homes of Central Florida

Designer Homes of Central Florida