The design of the three cent nickel is simple but elegant, a testament to James Barton Longacre’s talent and long experience as an engraver and illustrator.
- The main element on the obverse is Lady Liberty, who represents the United States. She is rendered in the style of ancient Greek and Roman statues — a style that was very popular on U.S. coins in the 1800’s.
- Lady Liberty is in profile, facing left and wearing a beaded coronet (a small crown) inscribed with the word “LIBERTY.” Longacre was well-known for his skill in engraving hair and wreaths, and his Lady Liberty has long, beautifully flowing hair.
- The words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” stretch around and above Lady Liberty’s head, deliberately spaced to avoid overlapping the edge of her coronet or the ribbon at the back of her hair.
- The date of the coin is centered under Lady Liberty’s neck.
- The outer edge of the coin is bordered by denticles (short parallel “tooth-like” lines). The denticles resemble the reeded edges of some coins (but not the three cent nickel, which has a plain edge) and are also reminiscent of the columns in Greek and Roman architecture.