The Three Cent Nickel was designed by Chief Engraver of the US Mint, James B. Longacre and was struck between 1865 and 1889. The shortage of all coins, even base metal ones, during the Civil War, was the impetus for minting Two Cent Pieces and Three Cent Nickels.
The Shield Nickel is the first five-cent coin issued by the United States that was not made of silver. It was designed by James B. Longacre, the Chief Engraver of the US mint in 1866. Longacre based his design on the reasonably successful Two Cent Piece he also designed in 1864.
The Liberty Head Nickel replaced the Shield Nickel. It was designed by Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, Charles Barber, and minted from 1883-1912. There is a legend associated with this coin, as follows.
After 25 years of toiling to mint the Buffalo Nickel, the U.S. Mint announced a design contest. The design should honor Thomas Jefferson on the obverse, and depict Monticello, his Virginia home, on the reverse. After receiving more than 400 entries, a winner was chosen.
Following in the great tradition of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and President Teddy Roosevelt, his successor, President William Howard Taft asked Fraser in 1911 to submit a new design for Charles Barber’s Liberty Head Nickel. By 1912, Fraser had submitted several designs with a similar theme – a Native American on the obverse and an American Bison on the reverse. The design was much heralded.
The U.S. Three-cent nickel was minted from 1865 to 1889 and slightly overlapped with the Three-cent Silver piece. The Three-cent Silver piece came about due to the decrease in postage rates, which dropped from five cents to three cents.
The first U.S. five-cent nickel was struck starting in 1866, and it has become one of the essential denominations of American coinage since that time. Base metal coins were not that common at the time but nickel changed that.
The Liberty Head or V nickel succeeded the Shield nickel in 1883 and was a highly circulated and used coin. During the later years of the Shield nickel and into the Liberty Head’s era, the penny arcade, slot machine and nickelodeon became popular and this five-cent piece was heavily used.