Tom Cabeen lives for nickels.
The 57-year-old retired carpenter from Princeton, Ill., traveled 18 hours by train to take part in his third nickel ceremony yesterday when the U.S. Mint rolled out its new American bison nickel at Union Station.
“Each one is interesting to me. Each new design is something different,” Mr. Cabeen said.
The new buffalo coin is the third design in a four-part series that commemorates the bicentennials of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition to the American West. The “Ocean in View” nickel, a fourth design, will be released later this year.
“The 2005 American bison nickel will look significantly different from any nickels you’ve seen,” said U.S. Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore. “It marks the first time that the image of President [Thomas] Jefferson has ever changed on the nickel.”
For the first time in 67 years, the five-cent coin will bear a detailed — and a more age-appropriate — likeness of the country’s third president and will include a “Liberty” inscription based on Jefferson’s handwriting.
“It’s a beautiful nickel; the detail on Jefferson is really nice. I wish they’d keep this design for all nickels,” said John Wood, 40, a coin collector from Arlington.
The reverse side of the nickel, which in the past featured Jefferson’s home, Monticello, will now depict the American bison. A spokesman for the U.S. Mint said the bison was chosen to recognize the American Indians and the wildlife that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark encountered during their expedition.
For many coin collectors, the new nickel was a dream come true. More than 200 coin enthusiasts or their friends lined up to buy the new coin at Union Station after the official introduction ceremony ended on Capitol Hill.
Coin collecting is a serious business. Officials at the U.S. Mint estimate that 140 million Americans are stocking away coins in drawers, closets and special collectors’ folders.
The Mint held a “nickel exchange” at Union Station to give collectors a chance to buy the bison nickel before the coins go into circulation next week.
Vee Titus of Martinsville, Ind., didn’t pass up the chance.
“My husband and I snuck out of the American Legion conference to come get nickels,” she said. “I got five rolls, one to give to each grandchild.”
Anthony Rudolphi, 22, a graduate student at Catholic University, was in line to help out his former teacher, who could not get to the event.
“My high school drafting teacher called after five years and told me to come out and pick him up five rolls,” he said.
Under the law, depictions of Monticello and the old image of Jefferson will return to the nickel next year.