New Nickel to Have Jefferson Face Forward

In a boon to coin collectors, the U.S. mint is releasing a redesigned nickel, with Thomas Jefferson facing forward and smiling.

Photo: These images provided by the U.S. Mint show the front and reverse of the 2006 Thomas Jefferson nickel. The Mint plans to begin shipping 80 million of the five-cent coins on Thursday, Jan. 12. They will be the first of an estimated 1 billion new nickels which will be put into circulation over the next year. (AP Photo/US Mint)Coming soon to a cash register near you — a smiling Thomas Jefferson looking straight at you from a new nickel that will end nearly a century of tradition for U.S. coins.

The Mint plans to begin shipping 80 million of the new 5-cent coins on Thursday to the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks. They will be the first of an estimated 1 billion new nickels which will be put into circulation over the next year.

Since 1909 when Abraham Lincoln became the first president depicted on a circulating coin, all the presidential images have been in profile. But in a break with that tradition, the new nickel has an image of Jefferson taken from a 1800 Rembrandt Peale portrait in which the nation’s third president is looking forward, with just the hint of a smile. The word “Liberty” in Jefferson’s handwriting is also shown as is the phrase “In God We Trust.”

On the opposite side, the nickel features Monticello, Jefferson’s Virginia home. Jefferson and Monticello had been on the nickel without change for 66 years until 2004. In that year, the Mint began the “Westward Journey Nickel Series” to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase and the exploration of the new territory by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. For two years, Monticello was replaced with images commemorating their journey including a keel boat, a buffalo and a view of the Pacific.

The new nickel with a smiling Jefferson is the perfect way to complete the series, said Acting U.S. Mint Director David Lebryk. “This nickel features a forward-looking President Jefferson who recognized that the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark expedition would expand our horizons in numerous ways,” Lebryk said. “This is a hopeful, positive image, emblematic of a bright future for our nation.”

The redesigned nickel is expected to be around for quite a while with no current plans for further changes. The next circulating coin that will undergo changes will be the Sacagawea dollar. Beginning in 2007, two-thirds of those coins produced each year will feature images of deceased presidents in the order they held office. Four past presidents will be honored each year. Congress has also directed the Mint to bring out a redesigned penny in 2009 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. The image of Lincoln on the coin will remain in profile although the Lincoln Memorial on the other side will be replaced with various images of Lincoln’s life.

The Sacagawea dollar has been a disaster in terms of replacing the paper dollar; they are hardly in circulation. These redesigns are otherwise of little consequence except to collectors, since most of us scarcely use, let alone spend much time looking at, our coins.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    I don’t know why people are so attached to the paper dollar bill. Personally, a dollar coin works better for me. No more fiddling with the dollars trying to get machines to accept them. The UK and Canada each did away with the paper version of their single denomination of their currency and it’s worked out just fine.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I don’t carry coins, not liking the extra clutter and noise in my pockets. Indeed, I’d prefer getting rid of cash money altogether. I already use my credit cards for virtually all purchases where it’s possible.

  3. DC Loser says:

    Not too many vending machines yet accept credit cards.

  4. Jay says:

    The face of the most recent nickel is ugly. Every time I catch sight of one I think it’s a token or a fake, not a real coin. It looks like a face made into a crescent moon.

    The facing forward one and the original are much better.

    The problem with dollar coins, not counting in the past when they were too quarter-like or too large, is that there still exist dollar bills. I love the Sacagawea. The lack of them being used and circulating is caused by a lack of their being used and circulated, circuitous as that sounds.

  5. James Joyner says:

    I don’t use vending machines very often. And it’s not a great technological leap to have them accept plastic. Many already do. The transition would seem most logical there, since it would avoid the need for making change and having crisp bills and such.

  6. McGehee says:

    The face of the most recent nickel is ugly.

    It does seem kind of odd, but when I get those nickels I only look at the face long enough to think, “Ooh! This is one of those nickels with a buffalo on the back!” — and I turn it right over.

    Indeed, I’d prefer getting rid of cash money altogether.

    Well, I certainly agree that the option to not bother with cash money, being technologically available now, ought to be implemented as widely as possible.

    But I like cash, and I want the option of using it.

  7. Richard Gardner says:

    I get the Sac dollar coin back in change when I buy stamps at the Post Office vending machine. I like leaving them as tips – for the surprise they give the server.

    A related “valid” reason I’ve heard for keeping the paper $1 bill is for tipping strippers, when the next available bill is $5 (not counting the $2 bill).

  8. Mark says:

    Richard has the number one reason against ditching paper currency yet!

  9. McGehee says:

    T-bird, Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. He was out of the country while the Constitution was being drafted.

  10. floyd says:

    CREEPY looking nickel…On to the coin dollar; it failed for two reasons, wrong size, wrong images. if they make it bigger than a quarter with universally acceptable images I.E. walking liberty on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse.these are lasting images with universal the same time permanently eliminate the half dollar.

  11. Michael Angier says:

    This program may cause the dollar coin to be sought, requested and eventually used to a greater extent:

    Personally, I have been using the coin since its release and usually request a roll or two on every bank visit. I think the Jefferson portrait on the westward series of nickels was better than the newest variation.