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Buffalo Nickels

Buffalo Nickel (1913-1938)

The United States Mint was founded in 1792 and has produced coinage for our nation, as well as coinage on behalf of other countries around the world, ever since. When it first began, the U.S. Mint was a relatively primitive operation, relying on coin blanks from Great Britain. The mint grew and advanced slowly but surely and now enjoys international renown for the quality of the many pieces it produces.

Now, contemporary collectors avidly seek many different U.S. Mint coins; several American coins boast acclaim among the most popular coins in the world. However, few United States coins are more popular than the Buffalo Nickel. These beloved and uniquely American coins are incredibly valuable in the eyes of collectors and are an integral part of any U.S. coin collection.

Buffalo Nickel History

During his tenure as President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt regularly and openly expressed his distaste for the artistic value of the coinage of the United States. A direct result of President Roosevelt’s dissatisfaction was the U.S. Mint’s hiring of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens with the goal of beautifying American coinage. Sadly, Saint-Gaudens died unexpectedly in 1907 before completing his overhaul of United States coin art. In 1911, Treasury Secretary Frank MacVeagh’s son pointed out in a letter to his father that the U.S. five-cent piece was one of the country’s most visible coins and deserving of a beautiful design. This letter instigated great discussion at the mint and new artwork for the U.S. nickel became a priority.

Sculptor James Earle Fraser, who had apprenticed with Saint-Gaudens, approached the U.S. Mint with design after design for the proposed nickel. At first, high-ranking mint employees were leaning toward a coin featuring President Lincoln on the obverse but a design with a Native American theme became the favorite after it was submitted for consideration. After deliberating over the designs, MacVeagh chose the now-iconic Indian Head artwork for the obverse and the American Bison, commonly called a buffalo, for the reverse. After a good deal of debate, the Buffalo Nickel finally launched March 4, 1913. The new nickels were immediately embraced by the American public, as the design was seen as uniquely and beautifully American. After all, this piece of coinage highlighted the historic roots of the United States. Buffalo Nickels were produced until 1938.

 
Buffalo Nickel (1913-1938) obverse

Buffalo Nickel Design

Learning the history of the Buffalo Nickel may have aroused your curiosity about the coin’s appearance. Its obverse bears the right-facing profile of an American Indian. The Native American is said to be a combination of several chiefs from different tribes; this allowed the coin to celebrate the wider culture of Native America as opposed to just one tribe. The Native American is shown in exacting detail. Even the texture of his hair and accompanying feathers is depicted in great detail. Also on the obverse of the coin are inscriptions marking the year the coin was minted and an inscription of the word “Liberty.”

The reverse of the coin, of course, depicts the famous left-facing American bison, or buffalo, standing atop a natural landscape. Like the obverse’s Native American, the buffalo boasts stunning detail. Above the buffalo’s image an inscription reads “United States of America.” When this coin was introduced, its design was revolutionary and did garner some criticism. However, the Buffalo Nickel was minted for 25 years and is now an icon of American coinage.

 

Popularity Among Collectors

Today, the Buffalo Nickel is extremely popular among collectors. For some, the challenge of assembling a complete set of Buffalo Nickels provides an unparalleled exhilaration. While putting together a complete set of Buffalo Nickels is difficult, locating certain editions of the Buffalo Nickel in well-preserved condition adds an extra barrier to completing a collection. For collectors, the condition of a given Buffalo Nickel is of paramount importance and it naturally follows that collectors are willing to pay high premiums for coins in exemplary condition. Unfortunately, because Buffalo Nickels are all old and nearly all of them were in general circulation, they are often fairly worn. When it comes to assigning a value to any given Buffalo Nickel, one must consider both age and condition. Of course, the older the Buffalo Nickel the better, but the age by itself does not determine value. If you are in possession of a Buffalo Nickel struck during the first few years of mintage, that has somehow been carefully preserved, you likely have a top-valued Buffalo Nickel.



DATE GOOD FINE EXTREMELY FINE UNCIRCULATED
1913 Buffalo Nickel (Variety I) $12 $16 $25 $35
1913 Buffalo Nickel (Variety I) (D) $15 $25 $45 $60
1913 Buffalo Nickel (Variety I) (S) $45 $60 $90 $110
1913 Buffalo Nickel (Variety II) $10 $14 $22 $30
1913 Buffalo Nickel (Variety II) (D) $120 $175 $235 $260
1913 Buffalo Nickel (Variety II) (S) $340 $450 $600 $750
1914 Buffalo Nickel $20 $25 $35 $45
1914 Buffalo Nickel (D) $90 $160 $325 $400
1914 Buffalo Nickel (S) $26 $45 $90 $160
1915 Buffalo Nickel $6 $9 $25 $45
1915 Buffalo Nickel (D) $20 $40 $130 $160
1915 Buffalo Nickel (S) $50 $115 $400 $500
1916 Buffalo Nickel $6 $8 $15 $25
1916 Buffalo Nickel (D) $16 $30 $90 $120
1916 Buffalo Nickel (S) $10 $20 $90 $125
1917 Buffalo Nickel $8 $10 $15 $35
1917 Buffalo Nickel (D) $18 $50 $150 $275
1917 Buffalo Nickel (S) $22 $75 $200 $375
1918 Buffalo Nickel $6 $8 $35 $50
1918 Buffalo Nickel (D) $22 $65 $225 $350
1918 Buffalo Nickel (S) $14 $55 $200 $325
1919 Buffalo Nickel $2.25 $3.00 $15 $32
1919 Buffalo Nickel (D) $15 $75 $260 $350
1919 Buffalo Nickel (S) $9 $50 $260 $375
1920 Buffalo Nickel $1.50 $3 $14 $30
1920 Buffalo Nickel (D) $8 $32 $275 $325
1920 Buffalo Nickel (S) $4.50 $28 $200 $300
1921 Buffalo Nickel $4 $8 $50 $75
1921 Buffalo Nickel (S) $75 $200 $950 $1,200
1923 Buffalo Nickel $2 $4 $15 $35
1923 Buffalo Nickel (S) $8 $30 $300 $400
1924 Buffalo Nickel $1.50 $5 $25 $42
1924 Buffalo Nickel (D) $8.50 $30 $235 $325
1925 Buffalo Nickel $3 $4 $15 $32
1925 Buffalo Nickel (D) $10 $40 $185 $265
1925 Buffalo Nickel (S) $5 $18 $180 $250
1926 Buffalo Nickel $1.25 $2.50 $10 $20
1926 Buffalo Nickel (D) $10 $28 $185 $300
1926 Buffalo Nickel (S) $25 $100 $900 $2,650
1927 Buffalo Nickel $1.25 $2.50 $15 $21
1927 Buffalo Nickel (D) $2.50 $10 $80 $135
1927 Buffalo Nickel (S) $1.50 $5 $95 $185
1928 Buffalo Nickel $1.25 $2.50 $15 $23
1928 Buffalo Nickel (D) $1.50 $5 $45 $50
1928 Buffalo Nickel (S) $1.75 $2.50 $26 $110
1929 Buffalo Nickel $1.25 $2.50 $15 $20
1929 Buffalo Nickel (D) $1.50 $2.50 $32 $23
1929 Buffalo Nickel (S) $1.25 $2 $12 $25
1930 Buffalo Nickel $1.25 $2.50 $11 $20
1930 Buffalo Nickel (S) $1.25 $2.50 $15 $35
1931 Buffalo Nickel (S) $15 $20 $35 $55
1934 Buffalo Nickel $1.25 $2.50 $10 $18
1934 Buffalo Nickel (D) $1.50 $4 $20 $45
1935 Buffalo Nickel $1 $1.75 $5 $10
1935 Buffalo Nickel (D) $1 $2.50 $18 $42
1935 Buffalo Nickel (S) $1 $2 $4 $18
1936 Buffalo Nickel $1 $1.75 $3 $9
1936 Buffalo Nickel (D) $1 $1.75 $4 $12
1936 Buffalo Nickel (S) $1 $1.75 $4 $12
1937 Buffalo Nickel $1 $1.75 $3 $9
1937 Buffalo Nickel (D) $1 $1.75 $4 $10
1937 Buffalo Nickel (S) $1 $1.75 $6 $9
1938 Buffalo Nickel (D) $3.50 $4.50 $5 $8

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