US Coins

Why are modern nickels minted with an 1803 date?


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2015-05-22 00:40:05
2015-05-22 00:40:05

The 1803 is not the minting date, which is traditionally marked on the obverse, or face, of a coin. The 1803 is there because the reverse is a copy of the 1803 Indian Peace Medal which Lewis and Clark presented to Native American tribe leaders as they explored the Louisiana Purchase.

This particular design was only minted for the first 6 months of 2004, as part of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial. The 2004 date is on the other side of the coin; this was the last year that the nickel carried the original left-facing portrait of Thomas Jefferson which first appeared in 1938.


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It's right on the front: For nickels minted 1938 to 2004 it's at the 4:00 position near the rim. Nickels minted in 2005 have the date at the 5:00 position near the rim. Nickels minted since 2006 have the date below the word "Liberty" Many people are confused by the special commemorative nickels made to honor the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Some of these coins have the expeditions' starting date 1803 on the back, but that's clearly not the date the coins were minted.

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The U.S. didn't begin minting nickels until 1866. If the date 1803 is above an image of a handshake, then what you have is one of the Westward Journey nickels, commemoration 200 years since the Lewis and Clark expedition. It was minted in 2004 and is worth five cents.

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The US first minted nickels in 1866.You may have a 2004 nickel minted to commemorate the Lewis and Clark expedition. It carries the date 1803 on the back to indicate the year that the expedition began.

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Please check your coin again and post a new, separate question. The first US nickels were minted in 1866. Lewis and Clark commemorative nickels minted in 2004 carry the expedition date 1803 on the back side. If that's what you have it's only worth face value to a dime in circulated condition.

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