The Mint once made two different 5-cent coins.
The first 5-cent coin was made of silver. This very small "half dime" was minted until 1873, even though the nickel version was created in 1866. So, for several years, both kinds of 5-cent coin—of different metals, in different sizes, with different designs—were made and circulatedâ¦but only one was a nickel!
The nickel had a growth spurt.
The first five-cent pieces were small. Called "half dimes," they weighed exactly half as much as a dime because their values were based on the amount of silver used to make them. The half dime's tiny size (about 16 mm) meant the coin was hard to handle and easy to lose. In 1865, Mint Director James Pollock thought that a five-cent coin made of nickel alloy would be a good trade for the five-cent paper notes that were circulating then. It turned out to be a good replacement for the half dime, too!
The buffalo was once a newcomer.
When the bison appeared on the Buffalo nickel (1913 to 1938), it was the first animal on a circulating American coin that was not an eagle. This newcomer kept its status as the only non-eagle animal until the 50 State Quarters Program introduced more animals (and more buffalo) in 1999.
There was a nickelless nickel.
During World War II (1942 to 1945), the five-cent coin was made of an alloy of copper, manganese, and silver. Nickel was kept aside for use in the war effort.