Buffalo Nickels, also known as Indian Head Nickels, is one of the most recognizable and sought-after coins among collectors. With a rich history and intricate design, these nickels are more than just small change – they hold value and significance that can be determined by several key factors. Whether you’re a seasoned coin collector or just starting out, understanding the value of Buffalo Nickels is crucial for building a valuable and diverse coin collection. So, if you’ve ever wondered “How much are Buffalo Nickels worth?” or “What makes a Buffalo Nickel valuable?”, then keep reading. We’ll take a closer look at the factors that affect their value, highlight the most valuable Buffalo Nickels, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to grade these coins.
Introduction to Buffalo Nickels
Buffalo Nickels, also known as Indian Head Nickels, are popular and iconic coin series that were struck from 1913 to 1938. These coins were designed by James Earle Fraser and feature the image of a Native American chief on the obverse (front) and an American bison on the reverse (back). This unique design has made Buffalo Nickels a beloved coin among collectors and enthusiasts.
In addition to their distinctive design, Buffalo Nickels have a rich history that spans over 25 years of circulation. During this time, they were used as everyday currency, and many examples have survived in various conditions. As a result, Buffalo Nickels are widely available, making them an excellent option for collectors of all levels of experience.
The 8 Most Valuable Buffalo Nickels
1. 1918/7 D Buffalo nickel: ($350,000)
The most valuable Buffalo nickel you could stumble upon is the 1918/7 D Buffalo Nickel, renowned for its unique overdate feature. Imagine two different date stamps colliding to create this rare gem! The 1918 stamp was the last to leave its mark, making the coin an overdate. Then, off it went to the Denver Mint, where an unknown but limited number of these special nickels were born.
What makes this nickel a collector’s dream? Well, it’s not just its scarcity but its history too. The coin didn’t even make it to the collector’s radar until its first recorded sale in 1930. That’s probably why finding one in mint condition is like hitting the jackpot. And if you do, you’ve got yourself a piece that could have unique die cracks, adding an extra layer of allure and value.
Now, let’s talk numbers. A circulated 1918/7 D Buffalo Nickel could fetch you anywhere from $600 to $29,500. But here’s the showstopper: an uncirculated one in MS64 condition was auctioned for a jaw-dropping $350,750.00 in 2006. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting out, this nickel is the ultimate prize.
2. 1916 Doubled Die Obverse Buffalo nickel: ($281,750)
The 1916 DDO Buffalo Nickel is a collector’s dream, thanks to its striking doubling on the obverse. Imagine seeing not just one date, but two, along with duplicated feathers and a hair ribbon! This eye-catching variety wasn’t even known until the 1960s, and since then, only a handful of Mint State pieces have surfaced. Even circulated versions of this nickel are few and far between. Some have even undergone acid restoration to reveal the date on heavily worn specimens.
So, what’s the value of this extraordinary nickel? A circulated 1916 MS 64 DDO Buffalo Nickel can command a price ranging from $2,600 to $48,000. But hold onto your hats, because an uncirculated one in MS64 condition was auctioned for an astounding $281,750 in August 2004.
3. 1936 D 3 1/2 Legs Buffalo Nickel Value: ($20,700)
The 1936 D 3 1/2 Legs Buffalo Nickel is a fascinating error coin that’s sure to intrigue any collector. Picture this: a buffalo that seems to be missing half a leg! This peculiar feature is the result of overpolishing the reverse die, which led to the buffalo’s front foreleg appearing weak and partially clear. According to the experts at the Cherrypickers’ Guide, we’re talking about an ultra-rare find here, with fewer than 40 known examples.
Now, let’s talk numbers. An average-condition 1936 D 3 1/2 Legs Buffalo Nickel could fetch around $980. But if you’re lucky enough to find one in uncirculated (MS+) mint condition, you’re looking at a value ranging from $17,000 to $22,500. And get this: one such nickel in MS63 condition was auctioned off for a jaw-dropping $20,700 in March 2009. So, if you’ve got a keen eye for detail, this is one nickel you’ll definitely want to add to your collection.
4. 1926 S Buffalo nickel: ($135,000 )
The 1926 S Buffalo Nickel is a rare find in Mint State condition, despite having a mintage that wasn’t much lower than the 1931 S issue. Unlike the later date, the 1926 S nickels were mostly issued to circulation at or near their time of minting, with only a few hundred believed to have survived in unworn condition. Most examples show signs of poor striking and wear on one or both sides due to prolonged use of the reverse dies. Despite the collector’s efforts to hoard this issue from circulation starting in the late 1930s, its modest mintage has limited its availability in higher grades.
A 1926 S Buffalo Nickel in a circulated condition is valued between $25 and $3500. However, pristine, uncirculated (MS66) 1926 S Nickels can fetch prices as high as $135,000 on the open market.
5. 1913 D Type 2 Buffalo nickel: ($35000)
The 1913 D Type 2 Buffalo nickel is a rare and sought-after coin among collectors. Despite having a mintage slightly smaller than Type 1, it did not receive much interest from the public, as they were under the impression the earlier type would be withdrawn. This has resulted in 1913 D Type 2 nickels being scarce across all grades and considered a semi-key in the series. Gems, in particular, are hard to come by due to the smaller number of surviving Mint State pieces and the generally poor quality of production. Examples can feature weak strikes and worn dies. A 1913 D Type 2 Buffalo nickel in a circulated condition is worth between $75 and $275, while uncirculated specimens can sell for up to $35000 on the open market.
6. 1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo Nickel: ( $90,000)
Perhaps one of the most famous error coins in all of American numismatics, the 1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo Nickel has captured the imaginations of collectors for generations. This coin features a buffalo with only three legs due to an overzealous attempt by a mint worker to repair a damaged die. A normal leg was inadvertently polished away, leaving the buffalo appearing to stand on three legs.
This unique variety did not go unnoticed by collectors, and the demand for these coins has remained strong ever since. Even in well-worn condition, these coins command a significant premium. A 1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo Nickel in average circulated condition is valued at around $500, while a pristine uncirculated example can fetch anywhere from $20,000 to $90,000 or more, depending on its grade and the demand at the time of sale.
7. 1913-S Type 2 Buffalo Nickel: ($100,000)
The 1913-S Type 2 Buffalo Nickel is another key date in the series. With a mintage of just 1,209,000 coins, it is one of the lowest in the entire series, making it a rare and valuable find for collectors. The coin’s low mintage, coupled with its high demand and a large number of coins lost or worn beyond recognition, results in a hefty price tag.
Even in lower grades, this coin commands a significant premium. A 1913-S Type 2 Buffalo Nickel in circulated condition can fetch prices starting around $200 and upwards, while uncirculated examples can be worth as much as $100,000 or more, depending on their condition.
8. 1921-S Buffalo Nickel: ($45,000 )
With a relatively low mintage of 1,557,000 coins, the 1921-S Buffalo Nickel is considered a semi-key date in the series. Due to the poor minting process and high circulation, many of these nickels are either heavily worn or have the dates completely worn off, which has contributed to its scarcity and desirability among collectors.
A circulated 1921-S Buffalo Nickel can range in value from $40 to $1,000, depending on its condition. Meanwhile, uncirculated coins can sell for as much as $45,000 or more, depending on their grade and market demand.
These coins are just a small representation of the valuable Buffalo Nickels that collectors avidly seek. Each has a story to tell, and they all play a crucial role in the rich tapestry of American numismatics.
Key Factors That Affect Buffalo Nickel Value
Buffalo Nickels are a popular and valuable series of coins, and there are several key factors that can impact their value. Understanding these factors can help you determine the value of your Buffalo Nickels and make informed decisions when collecting or selling.
Date and Mint Mark
The date and mint mark of a Buffalo Nickel are some of the most critical factors in determining its value. Some dates and mint marks are rarer than others, and therefore, more valuable. For example, Buffalo Nickels with a “S” mint mark on the reverse were struck at the San Francisco Mint, and these coins are typically more valuable than those struck at other mints.
The condition of a Buffalo Nickel also plays a crucial role in determining its value. Coins that are in pristine condition with no visible wear and tear are generally more valuable than those that have been circulated and show signs of wear. To determine the condition of a coin, collectors use a grading system, and coins in higher grades are typically more valuable.
In addition to the date and mint mark and grading conditions, special qualities such as die varieties, overdates, and errors can also impact the value of a Buffalo Nickel. For example, a Buffalo Nickel with a double die or an off-center strike can be highly valuable to collectors. Understanding these special qualities and how they impact value is important for anyone looking to build a collection of Buffalo Nickels.
Grading Buffalo Nickels: A Guide
Grading is an essential aspect of determining the value of a coin. Buffalo Nickels are no exception, and the grade of a coin can significantly impact its value. Here’s a guide to understanding the different grades of Buffalo Nickels.
Mint State Grade
Mint State grade refers to coins that are in their original, uncirculated condition as they left the mint. A Buffalo Nickel in Mint State grade will have sharp details and no signs of wear. Coins with this grade are highly sought after by collectors and can fetch a premium price.
Extremely Fine Grade
Coins in Extremely Fine grade will show slight wear, but still, maintain much of their original mint luster. The details will be sharp, but with some minor softening on the highest points. Coins in this grade are still considered collectible, and their value will reflect their condition.
A Fine grade Buffalo Nickel will have moderate wear, with most of the design details still visible. The surfaces will show some light wear and the details may be slightly soft. Coins in this grade are still considered collectible and can have some value to collectors.
A Good grade Buffalo Nickel will have significant wear, with only the main features visible. The surfaces will be smooth and the design details will be worn away. Coins in this grade are considered to be in lower condition and will generally have a lower value. These coins are often used for educational purposes or as fillers in a collection.
Enhancing Value Through Special Qualities
Condition Collectors and investors often seek high-grade Buffalo Nickels to enhance their coin collection’s value. A coin in high-grade condition, meaning a coin that has been well-preserved and maintained its original luster and detail, can command a premium over a coin that has been heavily circulated and shows signs of wear. For example, an uncirculated Buffalo Nickel is considered to be in high-grade condition and is worth significantly more than a coin in fine or good condition.
Special qualities can also enhance the value of a Buffalo Nickel. These unique characteristics can include things like die varieties, errors, or overstrikes. Coins with unique characteristics are often sought after by collectors, as they add rarity and historical significance to a collection. For instance, a Buffalo Nickel with a doubled die or a 3-1/2 legs variety can fetch a high price on the market due to its rarity and significance.
Eye appeal is another factor that can greatly enhance the value of a Buffalo Nickel. Coins with strong visual appeal, such as those with deep, rich colors or excellent luster, can command a premium over coins with a lackluster appearance. This is because coins with eye appeal are not only considered more attractive, but they also stand out in a collection. Additionally, coins with eye appeal are often considered to have been well-preserved, which can add to their overall value.
Buffalo Nickel History and Design
The Buffalo Nickel, introduced on March 4th, 1913, was a result of President Theodore Roosevelt’s dissatisfaction with the designs of US coinage. After the death of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who was hired to revitalize the designs of US coins, James Fraser, a former apprentice of Saint-Gaudens, approached the US Mint with designs for the Nickel. The initial design considered was of President Lincoln, but the final design was of a Native American Indian on the obverse and a buffalo on the reverse. The design was well received by the public and was considered a revolutionary design for its time, depicting the historical roots of the US.
The Buffalo Nickel features a profile of a Native American chief on the obverse and an American bison on the reverse. The design was inspired by Fraser’s experiences as a young man on the Great Plains and his interactions with Native American tribes. The reverse of the coin features a depiction of a bison, which was a common sight on the Great Plains in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The combination of Native American and wildlife imagery on the Buffalo Nickel makes it a unique and captivating piece of American coinage history.
Conclusion: Why Buffalo Nickels are Collectible
The Buffalo Nickel is a collectible coin that holds a significant place in American history. Its design, depicting a Native American on the obverse and a buffalo on the reverse, was ahead of its time and is still widely appreciated by collectors today. The intricate details and artistic merits of the coin make it a highly sought-after item among coin collectors.
The age and condition of the Buffalo Nickel play a critical role in determining its value. Nickels that are older and in better condition are often valued higher, but even Buffalo Nickels in poor condition are sought after by collectors. The challenge of putting together a complete set of Buffalo Nickels, combined with the coin’s historical significance and intricate design, makes it a highly collectible item.
In conclusion, the Buffalo Nickel is a piece of American history that has captured the hearts of collectors and enthusiasts alike. Its unique design and historical significance have made it a popular and valuable collectible, and its place in American coinage is secure. And when you are ready, you might want to sell coins for cash and enjoy the monetary benefits of your findings.
What year Buffalo nickels are worth money?
The most valuable Buffalo nickels are those from 1913, the first year of production, and those from 1938, the last year of production. Buffalo nickels from 1913 and 1938 are highly sought after by collectors and can fetch a premium price. Additionally, any Buffalo nickels that have a “D” or “S” mint mark are worth more than those with a “P” mint mark.
How much is the average buffalo nickel worth?
The value of a buffalo nickel varies greatly depending on the year, mint mark, and condition of the coin. On average, a buffalo nickel in a circulated condition can be worth anywhere from $5 to $100 or more.
How do I know if I have a rare Buffalo nickel?
To determine if you have a rare Buffalo nickel, you will need to evaluate its year, mint mark, and condition. For example, Buffalo nickels from 1913 and 1938 are rare, as are those with a “D” or “S” mint mark. Additionally, Buffalo nickels in pristine condition are more valuable than those that are worn or damaged.