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News > Economy
Brother can you spare a (new) nickel?
It won't be wooden and it still won't be all nickel, but the 5-cent piece soon will have a new look.
April 24, 2003: 6:17 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - It won't be wooden and it still won't be all nickel, but the nation's 5-cent piece soon will have a new look.

The U.S. Mint said the new 5-cent coins will be issued for three years starting this year to recognize the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition. The nickel's current design was introduced 65 years ago, in 1938.

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"It is a new century, and the United States is in a renaissance of coin design," Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore said. "This is a very historic moment. It marks the first time in 65 years that Americans will reach into their pockets and pull out newly designed nickels."

"Americans used to change designs every seven or eight years in the last century. Now we do it every 25 years or so. We've gotten out of the habit," she added.

Images of the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark's legendary trip across the West will be shown on the "tails" side of the new coins. The "heads" side will continue to carry President Jefferson's face to recognize his role in the purchase from the French and the commissioning of Lewis and Clark's journey.

Holsman Fore couldn't elaborate on the number of designers contracted to revamp the coin, but she noted that both engravers and artists would have input on the final design.

"Coins are a miniature work of art on a metallic material. The collecting community has been asking for [a new nickel] for years," she asserted.

In terms of popularity, the penny has the highest circulation and is closely followed by quarters.

"Over half of our mintage in any year is the penny. We minted more than 7 billion last year," she said.

How does the nickel compare? The U.S. Mint issued approximately 1.2 billion new nickels last year. Designed to last for well over one hundred years, nickels are usually taken out of circulation every thirty years.

The original U.S. nickel, introduced in 1793, was designed to have 1/20th the silver of the silver dollar coin. But the coin was so small it was difficult for people to handle, so in 1866 it was enlarged and changed to a copper and nickel combination, the birth of the modern nickel.  Top of page

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