The Hidden History of the Nickel

In addition to eviscerating hundreds of thousands of lives, the Civil War devastated the monetary provision of the United States as fearful Americans hoarded gold and silver coins for the rate of their metals. so many coins were taken out of circulation that Congress responded by authorizing the output of fractional currentness notes, some with denominations deoxyadenosine monophosphate low as three cents. The wallpaper money, however, proved difficult to manage, and Congress soon turned to a less expensive alloy for minting its coins—nickel. America ’ s first “ nickels ” were actually pennies. Starting in 1859, the United States Mint used a nickel and copper blend to produce its one-cent pieces, and in 1865 Congress authorized the federal government to use a alike typography for its new three-cent mint. The follow year, Congress began to debate whether to mint a nickel-based five-cent mint even though the United States already had a five-cent mint in circulation—in fact, it had been minting one for seven decades. The silver “ half-disme ” ( pronounce “ half-dime ” from an Old french password meaning a “ tenth ” ) was the first base mint produced by the federal government, and according to the United States Mint, the metallic for the initial pieces struck in 1795 may have come directly from George and Martha Washington ’ randomness melted silverware.

The small silver medal coins were difficult enough to keep track of in full times, let alone when they began to vanish from circulation. As american industrialist Joseph Wharton argued, by using cheaper nickel and bull, the fresh five-cent coins could be bigger than the half-dismes. Wharton doggedly lobbied his many friends in Congress to begin striking a second five-cent coin made from nickel. Of course, the businessman had barely a bit of a vest interest in the issue considering that he held a virtual monopoly on the product of nickel in the United States. He had taken over a nickel mine outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1863, and refined the metallic element at his american Nickel Works in Camden, New Jersey. Wharton ’ s friends in Congress not only agreed to the proposal on May 16, 1866, but even increased the system of weights of the newfangled five-cent coin so that it required even more nickel. not amazingly, Wharton ultimately made plenty of coin from the new coin, sol much so that in 1881 he donated money to establish the first base business school in the United States—the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. several designs were proposed for the original nickel, including one with a burst of Abraham Lincoln that was rejected out of concern that it wouldn ’ t be particularly democratic in the South. The approved design—with a Union carapace surrounded by laurel wreaths on the front and a large numeral “ 5 ” surrounded by 13 stars and bands of rays on the back—hardly received praise itself. The August 1866 edition of the American Journal of Numismatics referred to it as “ the ugliest of all known coins, ” which was actually a kind assessment than that rendered by a lector in the following month ’ second issue who wrote, “ The motto ‘ In God we Trust ’ is very opportune, for the inventor of this coin may rest assured that the satan will never forgive him. ” For some, the stars and bars on the “ Shield Nickel ” evoked the Confederate “ Stars and Bars ” flag, and the intricate design caused production problems as the hard metallic damaged the dies used in the mint process. only months after the nickel ’ s insertion, the rays were removed.

For seven years, the union politics minted two five-cent coins before finally retiring the half-disme in 1873. A decade late, the nickel received a makeover as the goddess of Liberty appeared on the front of the mint. Counterfeiters, in particular, liked the new invention since it closely resembled that of the gold five-dollar coin and the word “ cents ” appeared nowhere on the piece. By gold-plating the “ cents-less ” coins, entrepreneurial thieves could pass the nickels off as five-dollar pieces. Once the fraud came to the government ’ randomness attention, it added the password “ cents ” on the mint ’ s back. The following overhaul of the nickel came in 1913 when James Earle Fraser, a scholar of celebrated sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens who grew up on the prairie, designed a coin that celebrated the american english West. For the battlefront, Fraser sculpted the oral sex of a native American, which he said was a complex based on models that included Chief Iron Tail of the Lakota Sioux and Chief Two Moons of the Cheyenne. On the back of the “ Buffalo Nickel ” was a mighty bison. Although Fraser grew up where the buffalo roamed, the model for the capital beast of the West was reportedly “ Black Diamond, ” the largest bison in enslavement who grazed in more urban surroundings at New York ’ sulfur Central Park Zoo.

As the bicentennial of Thomas Jefferson ’ s parturition approached, the Treasury Department decided to honor him on the nickel. It staged a public contest for the mint ’ second redesign, and german immigrant Felix Schlag bested 390 artists to win the rival and the $ 1,000 pry in 1938. Schlag based his left-facing profile of the third gear president in menstruation coat and wig on the marble raid sculpted by Frenchman Jean-Antoine Houdon. The rearward featured Jefferson ’ s home, Monticello. To commemorate the bicentennial of both the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the nickel undergo its first base face lift in 66 years in 2004 when two new designs were used on the rear as depart of the United States Mint ’ s Westward Journey series of nickels. The buffalo besides returned to the mint ’ sulfur reverse in a 2005 version. New images of Jefferson besides appeared, and the current mint features a raw front designed by Jamie Franki based on a Rembrandt Peale portrait. The mint depicts Jefferson facing ahead and marks the first time a presidential break on a go around american coin has not been shown in profile. In hurt of their names, nickels nowadays are only 25 percentage nickel, with the remaining 75 percentage copper. The history of the nickel has come full lap from the days when Americans hoarded ash grey and gold coins for the rate of their metals. nowadays, due to the prices of nickel and copper, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that it costs eight cents to produce every five-cent while. Don ’ thymine think about melting your hoard nickels down for their metals, though. That drill has been illegal since 2006 .

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