With an obverse designed by Jamie Franki and a reverse designed by Felix Schlag, the Jefferson nickel has a composition of 75% copper and 25% nickel.
The obverse design features a bust portrait of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson with the motto IN GOD WE TRUST to the upper right of the periphery and just to the lower right of the portrait is the word LIBERTY in cursive form based on Jefferson’s actual hand-writing,
The reverse design depicts Jefferson’s home with the name MONTICELLO just below. On the upper periphery is the legend E PLURIBUS UNUM and on the lower periphery is the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA with the words FIVE CENTS just above.
For years the Jefferson Nickel has been an unappreciated coin but dutifully served as a coinage workhorse in our everyday business transactions and was a coin that the public routinely took for granted. By 1990, its purchasing power had dwindled to almost nothing and collector interest was waning even faster. It wasn’t until 2004, when a series of circulating nickel commemoratives program dubbed the Westward Journey Nickel Series appeared and interest in the Jefferson series picked up once again.
With more than 70 years of circulation the Jefferson Nickel was modified multiple times creating different type coins for collectors today. To complete a type set of Jefferson Nickels one has two acquire 7 different type coins.
Type 1 (1938-1942, 1946-2003) – Featured an obverse portrait of Jefferson facing left designed by Felix Schlag. Type 1 coins were minted from 1938 to 2003 with only a short break in coinage during World War II (1943-1945)
Type 2 (1942-1945) WWII Silver – Featured the same design as a type 1 coin except its composition was changed to a copper, silver, and manganese mix as nickel was needed for the war efforts. To differentiate from regular issues a large letter mint mark was added to the reverse just above dome of the Monticello home. This represented the first coin to ever carry a Philadelphia mint mark.
Type 3 (2004) Peace Medal – Featured the traditional Felix Schlag obverse design. The reverse design is based on the original Jefferson Peace Medal which incorporates the design of the hand of a Native American and the hand of a European-American clasped in a friendly handshake below a crossed pipe and tomahawk. The words "Louisiana Purchase" are inscribed above the date of the purchase, 1803. The reverse was designed by Norman E. Nemeth.
Type 4 (2004) Keelboat - Featured the traditional Felix Schlag obverse design. The reverse design features the keelboat that was part of the transportation for Lewis and Clark's expedition. In this Keelboat Nickel design, captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark are standing on deck at the start of their famous trip. The reverse was designed by Al Maletsky.
Type 5 (2005) Bison – Featured a new obverse design of Jefferson created by Joe Fitzgerald. This design is unique on circulating coinage in that it only shows half of jeffersons profile, and includes the cursive "Liberty" inscription, modeled after Jefferson’s own handwriting. The reverse design features the American bison, also called a buffalo. This animal used to roam the plains in such great numbers that the animal was noted often by Lewis and Clark in their journals. The reverse was designed by Jamie N. Franki.
Type 6 (2005) Ocean In View – Featured the same obverse design as the 2005 Bison issue but the reverse design depicts a view of the Pacific Ocean, the goal that the Lewis and Clark Expedition reached after more than a year of hard travel. The scene surrounds a quote written by Captain Clark: "Ocean in view! O! The joy!" The everse was designed by Joe Fitzgerald.
Type 7 (2006-present) Return to Monticello – Featured yet another new obverse portrait design of Jefferson based on a Rembrandt Peale portrait completed in 1800. The 3/4 view portrait showed Jefferson as Vice President at 57 years of age, and continues the use of the Cursve "Liberty" introduced in 2005. This design was executed by The United States Mint's Artistic Infusion Program Master Designer Jamie Franki and engraved by Sculptor-Engraver Donna Weaver. The reverse was returned to Felix Schlag’s depiction of Jefferson’s Monticello home.
General Market Notes
All types except for the WWII silver issues can be found circulating in today’s change. Even the WWII issues were made in ample supplies and are known to occasionally appear (though heavily worn) in circulation but most can easily be found at most coin shops.
There are no rarities in the series so any year will fill a need and nothing will break your wallet.