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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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1911 LIBERTY HEAD V NICKEL NGC MS65
Feb 25, 9:00 AM MST
1911 LIBERTY HEAD V NICKEL NGC MS65
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$15012 Bids
Partial Buffalo Nickel set 63 coins
Feb 25, 12:00 PM EST
Partial Buffalo Nickel set 63 coins
by Michiana Auctions & Estate Sale Center
Est: $700- $775
$42512 Bids
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1866 SHIELD NICKEL WITH RAYS NGC MS61
Feb 25, 9:00 AM MST
1866 SHIELD NICKEL WITH RAYS NGC MS61
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$26010 Bids
1924-D Buffalo Nickel AU55 ANACS
Feb 25, 12:00 PM EST
1924-D Buffalo Nickel AU55 ANACS
by Michiana Auctions & Estate Sale Center
Est: $375- $400
$6510 Bids
1918-D Buffalo Nickel
Feb 25, 12:00 PM EST
1918-D Buffalo Nickel
by Michiana Auctions & Estate Sale Center
Est: $100- $125
$758 Bids
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1937 BUFFALO INDIAN HEAD NICKEL NGC MS66
Feb 25, 9:00 AM MST
1937 BUFFALO INDIAN HEAD NICKEL NGC MS66
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$408 Bids
**Rare in High Grade** 1924-S Buffalo Head Nickel **VF**
Feb 24, 7:00 PM EST
**Rare in High Grade** 1924-S Buffalo Head Nickel **VF**
by Big Dog Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$127 Bids
1861 III CENT NICKEL
Feb 24, 7:00 PM EST
1861 III CENT NICKEL
by Big Dog Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$746 Bids
1894 Liberty Head "V" Nickel - ** BU!! **
Mar 09, 7:00 PM EST
1894 Liberty Head "V" Nickel - ** BU!! **
by Big Dog Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$196 Bids
1c 1863 ANACS MS63
Mar 09, 11:00 AM EST
1c 1863 ANACS MS63
by Mitchell Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$455 Bids
$100 Face Value Us Mint Buffalo Nickel Box 2005
Feb 29, 2:00 PM EST
$100 Face Value Us Mint Buffalo Nickel Box 2005
by Saco River Auction
Est: $200- $300
$1305 Bids
Partial Liberty Nickel Set 30 Coins.
Feb 25, 12:00 PM EST
Partial Liberty Nickel Set 30 Coins.
by Michiana Auctions & Estate Sale Center
Est: $75- $100
$305 Bids
Large lot US Nickels: V-nickels, shield, buffalo, Jeffersons, various dates and conditions (coins)
Feb 25, 12:00 PM EST
Large lot US Nickels: V-nickels, shield, buffalo, Jeffersons, various dates and conditions (coins)
by South Jersey Auction by Babington Auction Inc.
Est: $20- $100
$605 Bids
1938-1965 Jefferson Nickel Capital board
Feb 25, 12:00 PM EST
1938-1965 Jefferson Nickel Capital board
by Michiana Auctions & Estate Sale Center
Est: $75- $100
$254 Bids
1887 Liberty V Nickel
Feb 27, 5:00 PM EST
1887 Liberty V Nickel
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$94 Bids
*Seldom Seen* 1867 Shield Nickel **AU**
Feb 24, 7:00 PM EST
*Seldom Seen* 1867 Shield Nickel **AU**
by Big Dog Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$54 Bids
5c 1939 Doubled Die Reverse.
Mar 09, 11:00 AM EST
5c 1939 Doubled Die Reverse.
by Mitchell Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$504 Bids
Partial Jefferson Nickel Set 2004-2022
Feb 25, 12:00 PM EST
Partial Jefferson Nickel Set 2004-2022
by Michiana Auctions & Estate Sale Center
Est: $60- $75
$354 Bids
1953-S BU Roll of Jefferson Nickels
Feb 25, 12:00 PM EST
1953-S BU Roll of Jefferson Nickels
by Michiana Auctions & Estate Sale Center
Est: $30- $40
$203 Bids
(12) Original 1942-1950-D Uncirculated Jefferson Nickels
Mar 02, 10:00 AM EST
(12) Original 1942-1950-D Uncirculated Jefferson Nickels
by Mebane Antique Auction
Est: $100- $10,000
$553 Bids
1943-S Silver War Nickel MS66 PCGS
Feb 25, 12:00 PM EST
1943-S Silver War Nickel MS66 PCGS
by Michiana Auctions & Estate Sale Center
Est: $30- $40
$153 Bids
1883 Shield Nickel Doubled
Feb 25, 12:00 PM EST
1883 Shield Nickel Doubled
by Michiana Auctions & Estate Sale Center
Est: $50- $60
$253 Bids
1865 US Three Cent Nickel UNC
Feb 26, 5:00 PM EST
1865 US Three Cent Nickel UNC
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$263 Bids
1938-S Jefferson Nickel NGC Graded MS65
Feb 26, 5:00 PM EST
1938-S Jefferson Nickel NGC Graded MS65
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$63 Bids

Sellers Who Sell United States Nickels


Gold Standard Auctions

Gold Standard Auctions

McCurley Auction Company

McCurley Auction Company

Key Date Coins

Key Date Coins