Buffalo Nickels: Historic & Collectible
Buffalo nickels, also widely called Indian Head nickels, were struck from 1913 through 1938 and designed by James Earle Fraser. The popular Buffalo nickel
name is a misnomer in this case, as the large animal as seen on the reverse of this coin is an American bison. Meanwhile, the Native American on the obverse is a design based on a composite image of several individuals whom Fraser sketched in the process of designing this coin.
Several issues were released in 1913, the year that the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints produced two varieties of the Buffalo nickel. One variety shows the bison atop a mound, while the other shows the land beast standing on a plane. The words FIVE CENTS are inscribed on the mound on Variety 1 coins, while the denomination is expressed in a recessed area of the coin on Variety 2 pieces.
Among the series' scarcest issues are the 1913-S Variety 1, 1913-D Variety 2, and 1913-S Variety 2 coins. Other semi keys include the 1914-D, 1915-S, and 1921-S, with several other dates ranking as substantially scarce particularly in the better circulated grades. Several error varieties are also popular with collectors, with the most important of these being the 1937-D 3-Legged variety. The 1936-D 3-1/2-Legged Buffalo nickel is another scarce favorite. The 1916 doubled die Buffalo nickel is a rare coin with six-figure prices in the mid-range uncirculated grades, while the 1918-D 8/7 overdate is a very scarce coin in any grade.
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