Fun Facts

There was a nickelless nickel.... During World War II (1942 to 1945), the five-cent coin was made of an alloy of copper, manganese, and silver. Nickel was kept aside for use in the war effort.
The buffalo was once a newcomer.... When the bison appeared on the Buffalo nickel (1913 to 1938), it was the first animal on a circulating American coin that was not an eagle. This newcomer kept its status as the only non-eagle animal until the 50 State Quarters Program introduced more animals (and more buffalo) in 1999.
The nickel had a growth spurt.... The first five-cent pieces were small. Called "half dimes," they weighed exactly half as much as a dime because their values were based on the amount of silver used to make them. The half dime's tiny size (about 16 mm) meant the coin was hard to handle and easy to lose. In 1865, Mint Director James Pollock thought that a five-cent coin made of nickel alloy would be a good trade for the five-cent paper notes that were circulating then. It turned out to be a good replacement for the half dime, too!
The Mint once made two different 5-cent coins.... The first 5-cent coin was made of silver. This very small "half dime" was minted until 1873, even though the nickel version was created in 1866. So, for several years, both kinds of 5-cent coins—of different metals, in different sizes, with different designs—were made and circulated—but only one was a nickel!
“Nickel” is a rascal.... The word "nickel" dates back to the 1750s in Sweden and Germany. One meaning of the German word "nickel" is "rascal," so "kupfernickel" could be translated "false copper." Miners invented this name because nickel ore looks like copper, a more valuable metal. Sometimes the miners thought they had found copper, but they were fooled by that rascally nickel.
The quarters are all lined up.... For 10 years starting in 1999, the United States Mint 50 State Quarters Program released a quarter design for each of the 50 states. Which state first? The states were honored in age order—oldest first—according to when they ratified the Constitution or joined the Union.
One artist went from car design to coin design.... Of 390 artists who entered the contest to design a new nickel, the winner was Felix Schlag in 1938. Schlag was an auto stylist for General Motors.
An American explorer designed his own boat.... Captain Meriwether Lewis drew up the plans for the keelboat shown on the Keelboat nickel. The 55-foot keelboat was built in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It could be sailed, rowed, poled like a raft, or towed from the riverbank.
The nickel’s name is unique.... It's the only U.S. coin that is called by its metal content—even though the metal alloy in a nickel is only 25 percent nickel. The rest is copper.
The nickel’s image was a likely likeness.... The portrait on nickels made before 2004 was based on a marble bust by the French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. The sculpture was completed in 1789, while Jefferson was still alive, and is said to look just like him.