Liberty Head Nickel – Five Cent Nickel
The Liberty Head Nickel is one of the coin designs in the Five-Cent Nickel coin series of the 19th century. It is composed of 25% nickel and 75% copper. This coin design features a bust of the goddess Liberty wearing a tiara and is surrounded by the 13 stars representing the 13 original states and the year of mintage on the obverse side. On the reverse side, the Roman numeral V for the coin’s denomination is struck inside a wreath of U.S. agricultural crops corn, cotton, and wheat. The words “United States of America” and the motto E Pluribus Unum are imprinted around the edge of the coin. Both the obverse and reverse were designed by Charles Edward Barber, the chief engraver of the U.S. Mint during that time, who also designed several other U.S. coins.
The Liberty Head V Nickel was the second design in the Five-Cent Nickel series, succeeding in the Shield Nickel. Chief engraver Barber was tasked to create a new design to replace the Shield Nickel because of several minting problems due to the intricacy of its design. Mintage of the new coin began on the 30th of January in 1883 and ceased in 1912. However, there were a few Liberty Head coins that were dated 1913 without authorization from the Mint. These coins are now considered prime collectibles due to their contentious mintage.
The first issue of the Liberty Head V Nickel did not include the word “Cents” on them as it was not thought to be necessary. People of those times were used to coins bearing only Roman numerals for their respective denominations. However, the similarity of the Liberty Head V Nickel to the Five-dollar gold cent led to passing the five-cent coin as five-dollar gold by plating it with gold. A certain deaf-mute man by the name of Josh Tatum was told to have been committing this fraud by innocently buying things less than five cents using the gold-plated coin.
He never expressly claimed the coins to be gold but he also didn’t refuse to accept when he was given change for five dollars. Because of this, he was never prosecuted. Josh Tatum’s story became a popular American tale and from it, the term “Joshin’”, which means tricking or teasing was coined. Due to this fraudulence, the U.S. Mint ordered Charles Barber to revise his design to include the word “cents” and put a stop to the misrepresentation. The revised Liberty Head Nickel was immediately released to the public on the 26th of June of that same year.