The United States Buffalo Nickel, or as some call it, the "Indian Head" nickel, was first minted in 1913. The design, created by James Earle Fraser, depicts an American Indian on the obverse with the word "LIBERTY" along the upper-right side of the coin, and the year on the lower left. The reverse of the coin shows the words "THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" along the top, the words "FIVE CENTS" at the bottom, and a large buffalo facing left in the center. The Buffalo Nickel proved to be a very popular coin with the public.

There are two types of buffalo nickels from 1913, identifiable by differences on the reverse. "Type 1" buffalo nickels depict the buffalo standing atop a raised mound. Unfortunately, the mints had certain production problems with this design, and slightly changed it to depict the same buffalo standing on a flat surface. These are known as "Type 2" buffalo nickels.

If you happen to find a buffalo nickel from years 1922, 1932, or 1933, it's fake. The buffalo nickel was minted annually from 1918 through 1938, but production skipped these three years.

More than one billion buffalo nickels were minted during its lifetime, and the mint mark can be found on the reverse underneath the words "FIVE CENTS".

In 1937, an error in the die used for the buffalo nickel caused the production of the "three legged" buffalo nickel; the faulty die caused the buffalo's front leg to be removed from the image. Another error was from 1918, in which the date was stamped twice with a different number - one showing 1917, the other showing 1918.

The buffalo nickel stopped being minted in 1938, and was replaced with the Jefferson Nickel.


United States Coinage

Under a great deal of stress to meet the demand for small coinage in 1937 the mint was working at incredible speeds. At Denver a press operator named Mr. Young (a new employee) was busy at work making nickels when the dies came together without a blank between them. These clash dies should have been replaced, but Mr. Young pulled out an emery stick and sanded the clash marks off the dies. In doing so he removed one of the front legs of the Buffalo. This error, which can be chalked up to inexperience or the desire not to fall behind, was not discovered right away, and many left the mint in sealed mint bags. While many fakes exist, all original coins come from Mr. Young’s single pair of dies, and contain a raised line of dots from the middle of the buffalo's belly to the ground, making it appear as if he is answering the call of nature. On 11/27/90 one in Uncirculated condtion (MS-63) sold at auction for $3,850.


First let me warn you this will be a VERY SIMPLIFIED lesson on how to grade a Buffalo Nickel, but with that said I hope it’s helpful. If you want details information on grading nickels the ANA Grading Guide

Uncirculated
No traces of wear

About Uncirculated
Head near the horn shown slight wear

Extremely Fine
Horn and hair on obverse worn but complete

Very fine

Horn worn but the tip is visible, hair on obverse flat

Fine
Horn and tail smooth but ¾ there

Very Good
Horn is nearly flat but is partially there

Good
No horn

About Good
Date very weak letters merged into rim
No Date- don’t worry these coins are still desirable, and find their way into jewelry.

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