Nickel vs Dime, which one do you prefer? With their similar appearances but different monetary values, nickels and dimes can easily be confused. If you’ve ever pondered the differences between these two coins, you’ve come to the right place.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The main differences between nickel and dime are their size, color, and monetary value. Nickels are larger, silver in color, and worth 5 cents. Dimes are smaller, silver or copper in color, and worth 10 cents.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about nickels and dimes. We’ll cover their history, size, weight, composition, and monetary value. We’ll also look at some of the key people and events surrounding the origins of these iconic coins.

By the end, you’ll be a nickel-and-dime expert!

Origins and History

When the Nickel Was Introduced

Nickel Coin

The nickel, as we know it today, was first introduced in the United States in 1866. It was initially called the “Shield nickel” because of the design on its obverse side, which featured a shield. The Shield nickel was the first five-cent coin to be made of nickel, hence its name.

Before its introduction, five-cent coins were made of silver, and their value often fluctuated due to the rising and falling prices of silver. The introduction of the nickel brought stability to the five-cent denomination.

When the Dime Was Introduced

Dime Coin

The dime has a longer history compared to the nickel. It was first introduced in the United States in 1796 and was made of silver. The design of the dime has undergone several changes over the years, with notable redesigns occurring in 1916 and 1946.

The dime, like the nickel, has remained a staple of everyday currency in the United States, with its value still holding strong today.

Key Figures in Nickel and Dime History

Throughout the history of the nickel and dime, there have been key figures who have played significant roles in their development and evolution. One such figure is James B. Longacre, the Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, who designed the Shield nickel and many other coins during his tenure.

Another notable figure is Adolph A. Weinman, the designer of the Mercury dime, which is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful coin designs in American history.

The United States Mint website provides a wealth of information on the history and design of both nickel and dime. It’s a great resource for anyone interested in diving deeper into the fascinating world of coins.

Size and Weight

Nickel Dimensions

Nickel Dimensions

The nickel, a five-cent coin, is slightly larger than the dime. With a diameter of 0.835 inches (21.21 mm), it is about the size of a standard American penny. The nickel also has a thickness of 0.077 inches (1.95 mm), making it thicker than the dime.

The front of the nickel features the portrait of Thomas Jefferson, while the back showcases Monticello, the historic home of Jefferson.

Dime Dimensions

Dime Dimensions

The dime, a ten-cent coin, is smaller and thinner compared to the nickel. It has a diameter of 0.705 inches (17.91 mm), making it the smallest coin currently in circulation in the United States. The thickness of the dime measures 0.053 inches (1.35 mm), which is significantly thinner than the nickel.

On the front of the dime, you’ll find the profile of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, while the back displays a torch, an olive branch, and an oak branch.

Weight Comparison

In terms of weight, the nickel weighs 5 grams, while the dime weighs 2.268 grams. This means that the nickel is more than twice as heavy as the dime. The difference in weight is due to the composition of the coins.

The nickel is made of a copper-nickel alloy, while the dime is composed of a cupronickel blend. These differences in size and weight may seem small, but they play a significant role in the overall feel and handling of the coins.


When comparing nickels and dimes, one of the key aspects to consider is their composition. Both coins are made of different materials, which have evolved due to various factors.

What Nickels Are Made Of

Nickels, also known as five-cent coins, are primarily composed of a combination of metals. Currently, the composition of a nickel consists of 75% copper and 25% nickel. This alloy gives the coin its characteristic silver appearance.

However, it is worth noting that the composition of nickels has not always been the same.

Before 1866, nickels were made of a different alloy known as “nickel silver,” which contained 60% copper, 20% nickel, and 20% zinc. However, due to rising costs and the need for nickel during World War II, the composition of nickels changed to the current copper-nickel blend.

What Dimes Are Made Of

Dimes, on the other hand, are composed of a different combination of metals. The composition of a dime is 91.67% copper and 8.33% nickel. This alloy gives dimes their distinctive silver appearance.

Similar to nickels, the composition of dimes has also changed over time. Before 1965, dimes were made of 90% silver and 10% copper. However, due to rising silver prices, the composition was changed to the current blend of copper and nickel.

How Composition Has Changed Over Time

Over the years, the composition of both nickels and dimes has been influenced by factors such as cost, availability of materials, and technological advancements in coin production.

The changes in composition were driven by various factors, including the need to reduce costs and ensure the availability of certain metals for other purposes. For example, during times of war, metals like nickel and silver were needed for military production, leading to changes in coin composition.

If you’d like to learn more about the history and composition of nickels and dimes, you can visit the United States Mint website for detailed information.

Monetary Value

Face Value of Nickels

Nickels, as the name suggests, have a face value of five cents. They are composed of a mixture of copper and nickel, giving them their distinct appearance. Nickels have been in circulation in the United States since 1866, and they continue to be widely used in everyday transactions.

Despite their small denomination, nickels can quickly add up and provide a valuable contribution to one’s overall wealth.

Face Value of Dimes

Dimes, on the other hand, have a face value of ten cents. They are smaller and thinner compared to nickels, but their value is double. Dimes have a rich history, dating back to their introduction in the United States in 1796.

Over the years, dimes have undergone various design changes, featuring prominent figures such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt. With their higher face value, dimes are often seen as more valuable than nickels and are essential for making larger transactions.

Purchasing Power Over Time

While both nickels and dimes hold their respective face values, their purchasing power has fluctuated over time due to inflation. Inflation refers to the increase in prices of goods and services over time. As a result, the same amount of money will buy fewer items as years go by.

It’s important to note that the value of a nickel or a dime in terms of purchasing power is not constant.

For example, in the 1950s, a nickel could buy a bottle of soda, while today, it would barely cover a fraction of the cost. Similarly, a dime could purchase a loaf of bread in the past, but now it would only make a small dent in the total price.

To understand the true value of nickels and dimes, it’s crucial to consider their purchasing power about the cost of goods and services in the present day.

If you’re interested in learning more about the historical value of nickels and dimes, you can visit the United States Mint website. They provide detailed information about the composition, design, and historical significance of these coins.

Other Key Differences

Differences Between Nickel and Dime Coin


When it comes to color, the nickel and dime have distinct differences. The nickel, also known as the “five-cent piece,” has a silver color with a slight hint of gray. It is made of a combination of copper and nickel, giving it a shiny appearance.

On the other hand, the dime, or the “ten-cent piece,” is smaller in size and has a more vibrant silver color. Its shiny surface is a result of being made primarily of silver. The difference in color between the nickel and dime makes it easy to distinguish them at a glance.


The edges of the nickel and dime are another point of contrast. The nickel has a smooth, plain edge with no ridges or grooves. This makes it relatively easy to handle and less likely to cause discomfort when held for an extended period.

In contrast, the dime has a ridged edge with small grooves known as reeds. These reeds not only give the dime a unique texture but also serve as a security feature to prevent counterfeiting. The ridged edge of the dime adds an extra tactile element to its design.

Images Featured

One of the most significant differences between the nickel and the dime lies in the images featured on each coin. The nickel prominently displays a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, on the obverse side.

The reverse side of the nickel features a depiction of Monticello, Jefferson’s famous home in Virginia. In contrast, the dime showcases a portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, on the obverse side.

The reverse side of the dime features a torch, an oak branch, and an olive branch, symbolizing freedom, strength, and peace, respectively. These unique images on the nickel and dime reflect the historical significance of the individuals and concepts they represent.

Nickel Vs Dime – Conclusion

With their distinct sizes, compositions, and values, nickels and dimes have their unique histories and purposes. While nickels are larger and worth 5 cents, dimes are smaller and worth 10 cents. Both coins have evolved over the decades in terms of size, weight, and images featured.

Hopefully, this guide has helped uncover all the nitty gritty details about nickels and dimes. The next time you get a handful of change, you’ll have a new appreciation for these two workhorse coins. Your pockets may start feeling like a mini history museum!

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