In 1881, Mint Director Archibald Snowden decided to unify the designs on the 1-cent, 3-cent and 5-cent coins. Mint Chief Engraver, Charles Barber, was chosen to design the new coins. Snowden was unable to gain the required support to change the 1-cent and 3-cent designs, so only the 5-cent design was produced for circulation.
Barber chose a classical design for the obverse, featuring the figure of a woman facing left. The woman is wearing a coronet engraved with the word 'LIBERTY' and sprigs of wheat and cotton in her hair. She is surrouned by thirteen stars, the date appears below her. The reverse of the Liberty Without Cents Nickel displays the Roman numeral V inside a wreath made of ears of corn, ears of wheat, bolls, and leaves of cotton. Above the wreath is the legend 'UNITED STATES OF AMERICA', and the motto 'E PLURIBUS UNUM' below it.
Controversy immediately followed the release of this nickel, as the denomination, 'CENTS', did not appear on the coin. Counterfeiters reeded the edges and plated the Liberty Nickels in gold in an attempt to pass them off as 5 dollar gold coins. These Liberty nickels were called "Racketeer" nickels. Within the year, the mint added the denomination to the reverse side and production continued.