Composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel, the 5-cent nickel piece has been struck since 1866. The Shield nickel, the initial design, was struck until 1883, when it was replaced by the Liberty Head or the V nickel. Key dates in the Liberty Nickel series include the 1885, 1886, and 1912-S. Only five 1913 Liberty Nickels are known, but these are believed to have been produced clandestinely at the mint.
As part of a drive to increase the beauty of American coinage, the Buffalo nickel was introduced in 1913; key dates in the series include 1913-S Type 2, the 1914/3 overdate, the 1918/7-D overdate and the 1937-D “Three Legged.”
The Buffalo nickel was followed in 1938 by the Jefferson nickel, which is still in production. In 1943, demand for nickel as a strategic metal in World War II forced the mint to return to a silver-based composition that lasted through 1945. All of the dates in this series are easily obtained with the exception of the “S”-less nickel produced in 1971.
From 2004 to 2006, Westward Journey commemoratives honoring the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition were issued.