Nickel (United States Coin)
The silver half dime, also equal to five cents, had been issued since the 1790s. The economic upset of the American Civil War drove gold and silver from circulation, and the government at first issued paper currency in place of low-value coins. In 1865, Congress abolished the five-cent fractional currency note after Spencer M. Clark, head of the Currency Bureau (today the Bureau of Engraving and Printing), placed himself on the denomination. As two-cent and three-cent pieces without precious metal content had been successfully introduced, Congress also authorized a five-cent piece of base metal; the Mint began striking this in 1866.
The Shield nickel, the initial design, was struck until 1883, when it was replaced by the Liberty Head nickel. As part of a drive to increase the beauty of American coinage, the Buffalo nickel was introduced in 1913; it was followed by the Jefferson nickel in 1938. In 2004 and 2005, special designs in honor of the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition were issued. The Mint in 2006 reverted to using Jefferson nickel designer Felix Schlag's original reverse (or "tails" side), although substituting a new obverse by Jamie Franki. As of 2012, it costs more than eleven cents to produce a nickel; the Mint is exploring the possibility of bringing down the cost by using less expensive metals.
Read more about Nickel (United States Coin): Background, Inception, Shield Nickel (1866–1883), Liberty Head or "V" Nickel (1883–1913), Buffalo or Indian Head (1913–1938), Jefferson Nickel (1938–present)
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