What is on the back of a nickel? If you’ve ever really looked at a nickel, you may have noticed the intricate and symbolic designs on the back. But what exactly is depicted on the reverse side of a nickel?
Here’s a quick answer: The back of a nickel features an engraving of Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello along with the inscriptions ‘Monticello’, ‘United States of America’, and ‘E Pluribus Unum’.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a close look at the history, meaning, and details of the nickel reverse design. You’ll learn about Thomas Jefferson’s famous Virginia estate, the symbolic Latin motto, and the evolution of the nickel reverse over the years.
A Brief History of the Nickel Coin
The nickel coin, also known as the five-cent piece, has been an integral part of American currency for over a century. Let’s take a closer look at the history of the nickel and the design elements found on its back.
Introduction of the Nickel in 1866
The nickel coin was first introduced in the United States in 1866, replacing the previous design featuring a shield on the reverse. The new nickel coin featured a portrait of Thomas Jefferson on the obverse and various designs on the reverse throughout its history.
Initially, the reverse of the nickel coin featured a wreath, which was a common design element used on many coins of that era. However, this design was short-lived, and a new symbol was introduced in 1883 – the Roman numeral “V” within a wreath.
This new design was in line with the denomination of the coin, representing the number five.
The Origins of Monticello on the Nickel Reverse
In 1938, the nickel underwent another redesign, and the iconic Monticello building was chosen to be featured on the reverse side of the coin. Monticello was the Virginia plantation home of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States and the main author of the Declaration of Independence.
The decision to include Monticello on the nickel was made to honor Jefferson’s contributions to the nation and to pay tribute to his role in shaping American democracy. The reverse design was created by Felix Schlag, an artist who won a national competition held by the Treasury Department.
Since then, the Monticello design has remained a constant feature on the reverse of the nickel, with only minor modifications made over the years to enhance the details and overall aesthetics of the design.
The image of Monticello serves as a reminder of the rich history and legacy of Thomas Jefferson.
For more information about the history and design of the nickel coin, you can visit the U.S. Mint’s official website.
Key Design Elements on the Back of a Nickel
The back of a nickel, also known as the reverse side, features several key design elements that add a touch of artistry and symbolism to this commonly used coin. Let’s take a closer look at these design elements and what they represent.
Monticello Building Depiction
One of the prominent features on the back of a nickel is the depiction of the Monticello building. Monticello, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, was the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States.
It was also his architectural masterpiece, showcasing his love for neoclassical design. The image on the nickel pays homage to Jefferson’s contributions as an architect.
Inscriptions and Mottoes
Alongside the image of Monticello, you’ll find various inscriptions and mottoes on the back of a nickel. These include the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” which translates to “Out of many, one.”
These phrases serve as reminders of the unity and diversity that make up the nation. Additionally, you’ll also find the denomination of the coin, “FIVE CENTS,” and the mint mark, indicating where the coin was produced.
Other Artistic Details
Aside from the Monticello depiction and inscriptions, the back of a nickel boasts other artistic details that add visual interest. These include the oak and laurel branches, which symbolize strength and honor, respectively.
The branches are positioned on either side of the Monticello building, creating a balanced and aesthetically pleasing composition. The intricate details and careful placement of these elements reflect the artistic prowess of the designers.
If you’re interested in learning more about the design elements on the back of a nickel, you can visit the official website of the United States Mint. The website provides detailed information about the history, design, and production of U.S. coins, including the nickel.
The Significance of Monticello
Thomas Jefferson and Monticello
Monticello, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, holds great significance as the primary plantation and residence of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. This historic site not only served as Jefferson’s home but also as a reflection of his intellectual pursuits, architectural interests, and political ideologies.
Monticello, which means “little mountain” in Italian, was designed by Jefferson himself, showcasing his vision and creativity.
Thomas Jefferson was a man of many talents and interests, and Monticello beautifully reflects his passion for knowledge and innovation. Jefferson was a renowned statesman, inventor, architect, and scholar, and he incorporated elements of these various disciplines into the design and construction of Monticello.
As a result, Monticello stands as a testament to Jefferson’s brilliance and his contributions to American history.
Architecture and Design of Monticello
The architecture and design of Monticello is a masterpiece in itself. Jefferson drew inspiration from neoclassical and Palladian architectural styles, which were popular during the 18th century. He seamlessly blended these influences with his innovative ideas, creating a unique and visually striking structure.
One of the most distinctive features of Monticello is its dome-shaped roof, which was uncommon for residential buildings at the time. Jefferson believed that the dome symbolized enlightenment and knowledge, reflecting his belief in the power of education and intellectual pursuits.
Monticello’s interior is equally remarkable, with its intricate detailing and thoughtful design. Each room was carefully planned and organized to maximize efficiency and comfort, showcasing Jefferson’s meticulous attention to detail.
From the use of natural light to the incorporation of unique architectural features, Monticello exemplifies Jefferson’s commitment to creating a harmonious and functional living space.
Visiting Monticello today offers a glimpse into the life and mind of one of America’s most influential figures. The historic site provides visitors with the opportunity to explore Jefferson’s library, gardens, and even his inventions.
Monticello stands not only as a symbol of Jefferson’s legacy but also as a reminder of the importance of intellectual curiosity and innovation in shaping our nation.
“E Pluribus Unum” Motto
Meaning and Translation
The Latin phrase “E Pluribus Unum” is prominently featured on the back of a nickel. It translates to “Out of many, one” in English. This motto serves as a powerful reminder of the unity and diversity that characterizes the United States.
It reflects the country’s foundation as a nation built by immigrants from different cultures and backgrounds, coming together to form a unified whole. The motto signifies the belief in the strength and resilience that can be found in diversity, and the ability of people from different walks of life to come together and achieve great things.
Origins and Historical Use
The use of “E Pluribus Unum” as a motto has a long history in the United States. It was first proposed by the committee responsible for designing the Great Seal of the United States in 1776. The phrase was chosen to represent the thirteen colonies coming together as a single nation.
In 1795, it was officially included on the reverse side of the Great Seal, and it has since been used on various U.S. coins, including the nickel.
Over the years, “E Pluribus Unum” has become a powerful symbol of American identity and unity. It has been embraced by various groups and organizations as a representation of the nation’s shared values and aspirations.
The motto can also be found on government buildings, official documents, and even military insignia. Its continued use serves as a reminder of the ideals upon which the United States was founded, and the ongoing commitment to unity and inclusivity.
If you want to learn more about the history and significance of “E Pluribus Unum”, you can visit the Great Seal of the United States website for a detailed exploration of its origins and historical use.
Evolution of the Nickel Reverse Over the Years
The design on the reverse side of the nickel, also known as the back of the coin, has undergone several changes throughout its history. These changes reflect the evolution of American culture and the country’s commemorative events.
Let’s take a closer look at the different design elements that have graced the back of the nickel over the years.
Changes to Monticello’s Depiction
One of the most significant changes to the nickel’s reverse was the depiction of Monticello, the historic home of Thomas Jefferson. From 1938 to 2003, Monticello was prominently featured on the back of the nickel.
The design showcased the iconic neoclassical mansion in great detail, capturing its architectural beauty. However, in 2004, the United States Mint decided to make a change and introduced a new design.
The decision to replace the Monticello design was met with mixed reactions. Some people felt nostalgic for the classic design that had been a part of the nickel for so long. Others welcomed the change as an opportunity to showcase different aspects of American history and culture.
In 2004, the new nickel design was unveiled, featuring a depiction of Thomas Jefferson on the obverse and a representation of the Louisiana Purchase on the reverse. This design change marked a significant shift in the narrative portrayed by the nickel, highlighting an important event in American history.
Commemorative Nickel Series and Special Editions
In addition to the regular nickel designs, the United States Mint has released commemorative nickel series and special editions throughout the years. These special coins celebrate specific events, individuals, or themes of national significance.
One notable commemorative nickel series is the Westward Journey Nickel Series, introduced in 2004. This series consisted of six different reverse designs that depicted various aspects of the Lewis and Clark expedition and their exploration of the American West.
Each design in the series aimed to capture a different phase of the journey, from the start of the expedition to their encounters with Native American tribes.
Furthermore, the United States Mint has also released special edition nickels to honor significant individuals. For example, in 2005, a commemorative nickel was issued to celebrate the 200th anniversary of President Jefferson’s birth.
This coin featured an updated depiction of Jefferson on the obverse and a scene from his home, Monticello, on the reverse.
These commemorative nickel series and special editions provide collectors and enthusiasts with unique and limited-edition coins that celebrate important moments in American history.
What Is On The Back Of A Nickel – Conclusion
With its detailed engraving of Monticello and meaningful mottoes, the reverse of the nickel has an interesting history and symbolic significance. Over the decades since its introduction in 1866, the basic design has remained intact even as periodic changes and special editions have created some variations.
Next time you get a nickel in change, take a moment to appreciate the important American landmark and artistic craftsmanship depicted on its backside. The Monticello engraving and Latin phrases reflect core values and ideals of democracy and unity that still resonate today.