Today, if you have a coin in your piggy bank that is worth five
cents, you have a “nickel.” But until 1866, it was
the law that all coins had to be made from gold, silver or copper.
There were no coins made out of the metal known as “nickel,”
so there was no such thing as a nickel!
In 1866, the government
started minting a coin made of nickel and copper. It was bigger
than a dime because nickel did not cost as much as silver,
so to make a nickel “worth” five cents, it had
to be larger. The government was still minting “half
dimes” as well. So if you wanted to buy five cents-worth
of candy (which would have been a lot of candy in those days),
you could give the storekeeper a nickel OR a half dime.