Made up of 75% copper and 25% nickel, the five-cent nickel piece made its debut in 1866. The Shield Nickel was struck until 1883, when it was dropped in favor of the Liberty Head or V Nickel. Valuable specimens of the Liberty Head Nickel series include the 1885, 1886, and 1912-S coins. The five 1913 Liberty Head Nickels known to exist are believed to have been produced in secret at the mint.
To enhance the design of American coinage, the U.S. Mint introduced the Buffalo Nickel in 1913. Important dates in the series include the 1913-S Type 2, the 1914/3 overdate, the 1918/7-D overdate, and the 1937-D Three Legged.
In 1938, the Jefferson Nickel replaced the Buffalo Nickel. In 1943, demand for nickel as a strategic metal in World War II forced the mint to replace the nickel in the coins with silver (35% silver, 56% copper, 9% manganese) until 1945. All dates in this series are easily obtainable, with the exception of the S-less nickel produced in 1971.
From 2004 to 2006, the U.S. Mint issued Westward Journey commemorative nickels to celebrate the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.