US Buffalo Nickels (1913-1938)

Buffalo nickels are a favorite of many coin collectors, partially because they are so easy to find. These coins, sometimes referred to as Indian head nickels, were minted between the years of 1913 and 1938. Numismatists particularly enjoy sorting through these five cent pieces due to the fact that there are many misprints or errors to be found on these nickels, which makes them a more desirable addition to coin collections.

What sort of metal are these nickels made from?

Buffalo nickels are 75% copper and 25% nickel.

How can you tell if a nickel is circulated or uncirculated?

It's pretty easy to tell whether your coin has been in circulation by taking a good close look at it. A circulated coin has been carried around in pockets and coin purses and will look worn while an uncirculated coin has crisp images on both sides.

What does a Buffalo nickel look like?

The profile of a Native American Indian is on the front with the word 'Liberty' in the upper right curve and the year on the bottom left. The likeness of a buffalo appears on the back of the coin, with 'The United States of America' and 'E pluribus unum' printed above it and 'Five Cents' spelled out under the buffalo.

What errors make some of the Buffalo Nickels unique?

  • Buffalos with three legs
  • Buffalos with three and a half legs
  • Mint marks that show D's stamped over S's
  • One number struck over another

What do the terms obverse and reverse mean?

The obverse is the front of the coin, and the reverse is the back of it.

There is no year marking on this Buffalo nickel. Does this make it rare?

Not necessarily; that just means that the date has worn off, which is common in these circulated coins.

How can you tell where a Buffalo nickel was made?

  • Coins minted in Philadelphia have no mint mark.
  • A 'D' indicates that the nickel was made in Denver, Colorado.
  • An 'S' shows the nickel was minted in San Francisco, California.

Who is the Native American depicted on the coin?

The image is a composite of Iron Tail, Two Moons, and John Big Tree, designed by James Earle Fraser.

What should a Buffalo nickel collection be stored in?

One convenient way to store a collection of US coins is in an album, which allows you to display each coin. A storage case also helps to keep coin collections safe.