Since 1938, the design had been little changed, featuring a portrait of Thomas Jefferson on the obverse and his home at Monticello on the reverse. This was designed by Felix Schlag and selected as the result of a public design contest. For more than six decades, this was the face of the denomination.
For the years 2004 to 2006, the nickel underwent a rapid series of design changes to mark the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis & Clark expedition. In 2004, two different designs were featured for the reverse featuring the Peace Medal and a keelboat. The following year, a brand new obverse design was paired with two reverse design featuring an American bison and the ocean in view.
During the time of issue, the four different designs were collecting by the public from pocket change, in much the same way as the State Quarters series. The United States Mint also introduced numerous numismatic products to capitalize on the popular appeal.
To bring the series to completion, a second new obverse portrait of Thomas Jefferson was introduced in 2007 along with the original Monticello reverse design. This became the new permanent design of the Jefferson Nickel for future years. After many decades without a change, the Westward Journey series reinvigorated the denomination for a new generation.