The silhouette on the Thomas Jefferson nickel is ubiquitous in America, but it is neither the first nor the last piece of currency to depict the writer of the Declaration of Independence and third US President. Even during Jefferson's time, there were coins that depicted him. As part of the Presidential Dollar Coin Program of 2005, millions of Thomas Jefferson dollar coins were minted for circulation between 2007 and 2011. Since then, they have continued minting only for collectors and coin enthusiasts. Thomas Jefferson Currency is not limited to coinage alone. Jefferson also appears on one of the least used pieces of paper currency in the U.S., the two-dollar bill. The intention certainly was not to diminish the appearance of Jefferson, as the Treasury had assumed the two-dollar bill would be used commonly. Today, Thomas Jefferson coins also include replicas of actual historical currency as well as peace medals offered to Native Americans during the Jefferson presidency.
Revered as a leader among the Founding Fathers and the anti-Federalists, Jefferson performed a litany of roles in the birth of the American government. Before he assumed the Presidency in 1801, Jefferson had served as a Minister to France, Secretary of State, and Vice President under his rival and long term friend John Adams. After leading the drafting of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Jefferson served as wartime Governor of Virginia. Highlights of Jefferson's presidency include the Louisiana Purchase, which tripled the United States' territory, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. One of the first coins to depict the third President was the 1801 Thomas Jefferson coin that Lewis and Clark brought along as a peace medal for indigenous tribes. An original coin from the time of the Expedition would sell for tens of thousands at auction today. Besides the Thomas Jefferson gold coin minted as part of the Presidential Dollar Coin Program, many gold coins depicting Jefferson are replicas or commemorations of the Lewis and Clark Indian Peace Medals.
The version of the nickel depicting Thomas Jefferson has been minted since 1938 when it replaced the Buffalo nickel. The reverse of the Jefferson nickel depicts his home at Monticello, a mansion that Jefferson himself designed. In 2004 and 2005, the nickel's reverse featured a commemoration for the bicentennial anniversary of Lewis and Clark's expedition. There were four versions of a reverse for the Lewis and Clark commemoration nickels and in 2005, a modern obverse with a front-on perspective of Jefferson was minted. Since then, the five-cent Thomas Jefferson coins have reverted to the silhouette obverse and are using a reverse that was made by the same artist but originally rejected. This reverse includes an angle view of Monticello and a different font for the lettering. The fact that Jefferson would be included on this ubiquitous coin, between the Lincoln penny and the Roosevelt dime, demonstrates his grandeur in the Pantheon of American leaders. Despite his marred record on slavery, Jefferson's legacy includes an ideal of liberty that transcends the man himself.