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 Jefferson nickel has been the five-cent coin struck by the United States Mint since 1938, when it replaced the Buffalo nickel. Since 2006, the copper-nickel coin's obverse has featured a forward-facing portrayal of early US President Thomas Jefferson by Jamie Franki. The coin's reverse is the original by Felix Schlag; in 2004 and 2005, the piece bore commemorative designs.
First struck in 1913, the Buffalo nickel had long been difficult to coin, and after it completed the 25-year term during which it could only be replaced by Congress, the Mint moved quickly to replace it with a new design. The Mint conducted a design competition in early 1938, requiring that Jefferson be depicted on the obverse, and Jefferson's house Monticello on the reverse. Schlag won the competition, but was required to submit an entirely new reverse and make other changes before the new piece went into production in October 1938.
As nickel was a strategic war material during World War II, nickels coined from 1942 to 1945 were struck in a copper-silver-manganese alloy which would not require adjustment to vending machines. They bear a large mint mark above the depiction of Monticello on the reverse. In 2004 and 2005, the nickel saw new designs as part of the Westward Journey nickel series, and since 2006 has borne Schlag's reverse and Franki's obverse.