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The nickel with Jefferson on the front and buffalo on the back is not the five-cent piece everyone knows as the buffalo nickel. The original buffalo nickel was minted from 1913 to 1938 and remains a collectors' item for many numismatists.

Nickel with Jefferson On the Front

Jefferson Nickels

The first nickel that showcased Thomas Jefferson was minted in 1938. The obverse (the side with the face) featured a side-view of Jefferson based on a sculptured bust. On the reverse side, there is a profile of Monticello. The Jefferson nickel is one of the easiest coins to collect since you can usually find coins from the 1940s and 1950s still in circulation. Very few of the Jefferson nickels are collectors' items, but the rarest is the 1950-D, which you should still be able to find it at dealers.

Nickel with Jefferson on the Front and Buffalo on the Back

This nickel doesn't carry the same moniker as the original nickel with the buffalo. In 2004, the United States congress let the U.S. Mint make changes to coins and soon the Statehood Quarters resulted. In 2003, the Mint proposed some changes to the nickel and named these changes the "Westward Journey Nickel Series." However, this caused a lot of controversy because a few senators were afraid the Monticello design would never return. So Public Law 108-15 was passed enforcing the return of the Monticello design in 2006. Two designs for 2004 and 2005 were proposed, one of which was the nickel with Jefferson on the front and buffalo on the back. This one was approved and minted.

The 2004 designs included a replication of the Indian Peace Medal for the Lewis and Clark expedition. In fall of the same year, a nickel with Lewis and Clark's keelboat was released into circulation. This keelboat shipped members of the Corps of Discovery and their supplies through the Louisiana Territory.

The nickel with Jefferson and the buffalo was released in 2005. After 67 years, the bison returned because the United States wanted to keep interest in the animal since it was almost hunted into extinction when the transcontinental railroad was completed. This bison design was created by Jamie N. Franki.

The final Westward Journey coin, circulated in 2005, was depicted with an ocean and the words “Ocean in view! O! The Joy!”

Return of Monticello

In accordance with the Public Law, Monticello returned to the reverse side of the nickel in 2006. This coin also featured the first time a President was shown front-facing. As with the nickel with Jefferson and the buffalo, the word Liberty was printed on the obverse side based on Jefferson's writing of this word on the Declaration of Independence.

Mintage

The new nickel with the buffalo on it was minted in Philadelphia and Denver. The Philadelphia mint pushed out about 450 million and the Denver mint circulated 480 million.

Collecting

The coins are widely available in circulation. If you decide to create a collection based on these nickels, your collection might be worth more if you had an entire set of Westward Journey nickels in uncirculated condition or as a proof set.

Protecting coins is vital in order to keep the value higher on any of your coins. The most common way to protect coins is placing them in single cardboard holders. Coin dealers should carry these on hand at any time. Another way — which is sometimes easier — is to place the coins in an archival album. These are hardcover albums with holes cut out for you to place the coins. These albums are available almost anywhere, including bookstores, drug stores, and other chain stores.

The new buffalo nickels from 2005 is a great way to start a coin collection as they are readily available and in uncirculated condition is worth more than their face value.