A nickel, in American usage, is a five-cent coin struck by the United States Mint. Composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel, the piece has been issued since 1866.
The Liberty Head nickel, sometimes referred to as the V nickel because of its reverse (or tails) design, is an American five-cent piece. It was struck for circulation from 1883 until 1912, with at least five pieces being surreptitiously struck dated 1913.
The original copper–nickel five-cent piece, the Shield nickel, had longstanding production problems, and in the early 1880s, the United States Mint was looking to replace it. Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber was instructed to prepare designs for proposed one-, three-, and five-cent pieces, which were to bear similar designs. Only the new five-cent piece was approved, and went into production in 1883. For almost thirty years large quantities of coin of this design were produced to meet commercial demand, especially as coin-operated machines became increasingly popular.
Beginning in 1911, the Mint began work to replace the Liberty head design, and a new design, which became known as the Buffalo nickel, went into production in February 1913. Although no 1913 Liberty head nickels were officially struck, five are known to exist. While it is uncertain how these pieces originated, they have come to be among the most expensive coins in the world, with one selling in 2010 for $3,737,500.