NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Start checking your change: new nickels are making their way to pockets and purses across America.
|The new nickel's back
Last April, the U.S. Treasury announced that the nation's five-cent coin would be redesigned. In November, when the government unveiled that new pattern, it added a twist: There would be two new nickels issued in 2004, instead of just one.
This week, the U.S. Mint announced that the first of those two editions is ready to go.
At an unveiling Thursday, Mint director Henrietta Holsman Fore said that 218 million coins have been minted, and were shipped this week to the Federal Reserve banks. From there, the nickels will be sent to commercial banks nationwide, and then will enter into general circulation.
The change marks the first alteration to the nickel since the most recent version was introduced in 1938. That familiar piece depicts Thomas Jefferson on its front, with an image of his Monticello estate on the back.
A likeness of America's third president will remain on the front of the nickel. But his house is out.
The backside of the nickels now entering circulation features the Jefferson Peace Medal. This was a ceremonial medallion presented to Native American chiefs during treaty signings and other big pow-wows. It displays clasped hands and a peace pipe overlapping a hatchet.
The second nickel will be released in the fall, and will be engraved with an image of the keelboat used by Lewis and Clark in exploring the American West. President Jefferson was that expedition's chief patron.
The decision last year to replace Monticello on the coin created a political controversy. Objecting strenuously to the loss of free advertising for one of Virginia's top tourist attractions, that state's congressional delegation lobbied to make the nickel's redesign a temporary measure.
The coin is scheduled to revert to its former design in 2006.