The Jefferson Nickel first appeared in 1938, replacing the Buffalo (Indian Head) Nickel. For sixty eight years, a profile portrait of Jefferson by Felix Schlag appeared on the obverse, similar to the portraits on other US coins. This was replaced in 2005 by a new profile portrait by Joseph Fitzgerald. A notable feature of this design was that the image focused on the face (which was turned very slightly so that both eyes can be seen) and was placed off-center on the coin. The following year (2006) the obverse image was changed yet again, this time showing a three-quarter frontal view of Jefferson (artist James Frank). Since 2005, the legend "Liberty" has appeared in script rather than the traditional printed letters.
The image on the reverse side of the coin depicts Jefferson's home, Monticello. In 2004 and 2005, however, the image was temporarily replaced by commemorative images celebrating the bicentennial of the Louis and Clark Expedition (commissioned by Jefferson following the Louisiana Purchase). In 2004 there were two commemorative images (Peace Medal and Keel Boat) and in 2005 another two commemorative images (Buffalo and "Ocean in view").
Mint marks are D for Denver, S for San Francisco, and P for Philadelphia. The Philadelphia mintmark, however, only appears on coins minted during World War II (1942 to 1945) and those minted after 1979 (i.e., beginning in 1980). The World War II coins were the first US coins to ever bear the P mintmark. The mintmark is absent on all Nickels minted from 1965 through 1967 (regardless of where they were struck).
Prior to 1965, mint marks appear on the reverse side of the coin. The usual location is to the right of Monticello, although World War II silver Nickels have the mintmark (including "P") placed above the dome using very large letters. Starting in 1968, the mintmarks appear on the obverse side near to the date.
The edge of the Jefferson Nickel is plain (smooth). Its current composition is 75% copper and 25% nickel. During World War II (1942 to 1945), however, Nickels were composed of 35% silver (plus 56%copper and 9% manganese).