By Chris Ireland
1883 V Nickel, the first year of issue. When they first came out people got the idea of gold plating them and, since the word CENTS did not appear on it, they were easily mistaken for $5 gold coins. These became known as "racketeer" nickels.
The first racketeer was a man named Josh and he was deaf and mute. He would buy a 5 cent cigar and just put the gold plated nickel on the counter. If the cashier knew what he was looking at Josh would walk out with his purchase. However, many times Josh would receive $4.95 change and would walk away a winner. He was eventually tried but not convicted because his lawyer claimed that he was unable to protest the cashier's mistake. That's how we got the phrase, "I was just joshing."
The word CENTS was added to prevent people from being scammed. The nickels with CENTS on them sell for considerably more than the no CENTS variety. These were made from 1883-1913. (The 1913 is extremely rare and examples sell for millions.)