How thick is a nickel in inches? If you’ve ever held a nickel in your hand and wondered just how thick those 12-sided coins are, you’re not alone. We receive many queries about the dimensions of U.S. coins, and nickels tend to generate a lot of interest regarding their thickness.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: the thickness of a nickel is 0.083 inches.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about nickel thickness. We’ll look at the history of nickels, how thickness standards have changed over the years, the minting process that gives nickels their distinct shape, and how nickel thickness compares to other coins.

The Origins and Changing Standards of Nickel Thickness

How Nickels Evolved from Early U.S. Coins

The first U.S. nickel was minted in 1866, but coins similar in size and value existed beforehand. Early U.S. half dimes and half cents, first struck in the late 18th century, were comparable in diameter to modern nickels.

These small denomination coins faced problems though — their thinness made them easy to lose and susceptible to wear. By the mid-1800s a thicker, more durable five-cent coin was needed.

Why Nickels Were Made Thicker in 1866

The Coinage Act of 1866 authorized the first U.S. five-cent nickel pieces. At 1.95mm thick per specifications, the new Shield nickels were nearly 50% thicker than earlier half dimes.

Additional thickness served practical aims — preventing excessive wear and making the coins easier to stack and handle. It also allowed for a large Roman numeral “V” design on the reverse, symbolizing the coin’s five-cent value.

Thickness Requirements for Modern Nickels

Standards have remained steady since 1866 and continue for present Jefferson nickels. Per U.S. mint specifications, standard nickel thickness should be:

  • 1.95mm ± 0.10mm for new nickels
  • 1.82mm ± 0.10mm for worn circulation nickels

So a nickel straight from the U.S. mint falls within 1.85-2.05mm thickness. Meeting these strict standards allows consistent stacking, handling, and compatibility with vending machines and coin-counting equipment.

How Nickels Are Made to Achieve Their Unique Thickness

Nickel Production at U.S. Mints

The thickness of a nickel is carefully controlled during the minting process at facilities like the Philadelphia Mint. The coin blank, known as a planchet, is fed into a high-powered coin press that applies over 100 tons of pressure to imprint the design on both sides of the planchet (U.S. Mint).

This extreme force is required to achieve the exact size and thickness of the final nickel coin.

Planchets: Creating Nickel Blanks with Precision

Before nickels enter the coin press, round metal blanks called planchets are manufactured according to strict thickness guidelines. The thickness of each blank must be within a tolerance of 0.0025 inches (U.S. Mint, 2021).

Achieving nickel planchets with such tight precision ensures the final coin thickness remains remarkably consistent.

The High-Pressure Coining Process

In the late 1700s when coin presses were first developed, the thickness of coins varied widely. Modern improvements in technology have enabled extremely accurate thickness control. Nickels minted in 2023 have a diameter of 0.835 inches and thickness of 0.069 inches with minuscule variance, thanks to advancements like automated planchet inspectors and electronic coin press monitoring systems.

How Thick Are Nickels Compared to Other Coins?

When stacked up against other circulating U.S. coins, the thickness of the nickel sits right in the middle. Let’s take a look at how it compares in size to other common coins.

Nickels Versus Pennies

Pennies are the thinnest coins, at only 1.52mm thick. Nickels, on the other hand, are 1.95mm thick – making them over 25% thicker than pennies. So if you’ve ever wondered why stacking a bunch of pennies doesn’t end up the same height as the same number of nickels, the thickness is the reason.

Nickels Versus Dimes and Quarters

At 1.95mm for nickels and 1.35mm for dimes and quarters, nickels are close to 50% thicker than these other two coins. Dimes and quarters are incredibly similar in size and thickness, partly because the modern quarter was designed to be 2.5 dimes stacked on top of each other.

Nickels and Half Dollars

The half-dollar coins are the thickest currently circulating coins at 2.15mm. So a half dollar is about 10% thicker than a nickel. The difference is slight, but noticeable if you handle both coins regularly.

International Coin Thickness Comparisons

Internationally, coin thickness varies quite a bit between countries. According to the currency reference site CurrencyWiki, one of the thinnest coin series is the Japanese yen, with most coins under 1mm thick.

The thickest regular circulation coins listed are a toss-up between the old Canadian dollar coin (at 2.8mm) and the British 5-pence and 10-pence coins (at 3.0mm).

Coin Thickness
U.S. Penny 1.52mm
U.S. Nickel 1.95mm
U.S. Dime/Quarter 1.35mm
U.S. Half Dollar 2.15mm

So while the U.S. nickel is by no means the thinnest or thickest coin out there, its thickness is nicely substantial and allows for easy stacking and handling. The decision to make it thicker than a dime or penny has stood the test of time!

How Thick Is A Nickel In Inches – Conclusion

We’ve covered a lot of territory on the thickness of the humble nickel. We looked at how early U.S. coins led to the development of the 12-sided nickel in 1866, traced how minting technologies have ensured precise thickness standards for nickel production, and compared nickels to other coin denominations in the U.S. and abroad.

So the next time you pull a nickel from your pocket or get one back in change, take a moment to appreciate the 0.083-inch thickness of this unique coin. Nickels serve as a tangible connection to the rich history of coinage in the United States.

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