Buffalo Nickel

1913 – 1938

The name “Buffalo Nickel” is actually a misnomer, as the animal appearing on the reverse is in fact a bison and not a buffalo. The true name of this very popular coin is the Five Cent Indian Head, however, the name “Buffalo Nickel” seems to have been set as its most widely used and accepted name.
The obverse of the Buffalo Nickel features a portrait of a Native American. The “Indian Head” was actually a composite of three different chiefs; John Big Tree, Iron Tail and Two Moons. The word “LIBERTY” appears next to the rim on the upper right side across from the Native American’s eyes.

Buffalo Nickel (Indian Head Five Cents)
Buffalo Nickel (Indian Head Five Cents)

The reverse side of the coin features an American Bison, which was confused as a buffalo by the early Americans. The model for the bison is said to have been taken from a well known bison named Black Diamond at the Central Park Zoo. The words “UNITED-STATES-OF-AMERICA” appear in an arc across the top, with the words “E PLURIBUS UNUM” just below the word “AMERICA” and above the bison. “FIVE CENTS” appears at the bottom.
Soon after the Buffalo Nickel went into production it was discovered that the reverse design had a problem. The words “FIVE CENTS” were inscribed upon a raised mound shape which made it very susceptible to wear. During that first year the design was modified by removing the mound so that the words would be lower. It is interesting to note that there was a similar problem with the date, but that was not modified. As a result it is very common to see circulated Buffalo Nickels without a readable date.
The 1913 Buffalo Nickel with the raised date on the mound is known as “Variety 1”, the remainder of the coins are known as “Variety 2”
There are other varieties and oddities including, but not limited to:

  • 1916/1916 Doubled Die
  • 1918/1917-D Doubled Die Over-date
  • 1935 Doubled Die Reverse
  • 1937-D which is known as the “3 Legged” Buffalo Nickel. The missing leg was a result of an already heavily worn die being over polished.

Buffalo Nickel (Indian Head Five Cents)
Buffalo Nickel (Indian Head Five Cents)

Any Buffalo nickel with a readable date is worth at least thirty-five to forty cents, however, some Buffalo Nickels are worth thousands of dollars.
Buffalo Nickel Specifications
Diameter: 21.2 mm
Weight: 5.0 g
Composition: 75% Nickel 25% Copper
Edge: Plain
Designer: James Earle Fraser
Written by David Slone, Copyright 2008 CoinCollectorGuide.com
Buffalo Nickel Mintage Numbers

1913 Type 1 … 30,993,520
1913-D Type 1 … 5,337,000
1913-S Type 1 … 2,105,000
1913 Type 2 … 29,858,700
1913-D Type 2 … 4,156,000
1913-S Type 2 … 1,290,000
1914 …… 20,665,738
1914-D … 3,912,000
1914-S … 3,470,000
1915 …… 20,987,270
1915-D … 7,569,000
1915-S … 1,505,000
1916 …… 63,498,066
1916-D … 13,333,000
1916-S … 11,860,000
1917 …… 51,424,019
1917-D … 9,910,000
1917-S … 4,193,000
1918 …… 32,086,314
1918-D … 8,362,000
1918-S … 4,882,000
1919 …… 60,868,000
1919-D … 8,006,000
1919-S … 7,521,000
1920 …… 63,093,000
1920-D … 9,418,000
1920-S … 9,689,000
1921 …… 10,663,000
1921-S … 1,557,000
1923 …… 35,715,000
1923-S … 6,142,000
1924 …… 21,620,000
1924-D … 5,258,000
1924-S … 1,437,000
1925 …… 35,565,100
1925-D … 4,450,000
1925-S … 6,256,000
1926 …… 44,693,000
1926-D … 5,638,000
1926-S … 970,000
1927 … 37,981,000
1927-D … 5,730,000
1927-S … 3,430,000
1928 … 23,411,000
1928-D … 6,436,000
1928-S … 6,936,000
1929 …… 36,446,000
1929-D … 8,370,000
1929-S … 7,754,000
1930 …… 22,849,000
1930-S … 5,435,000
1931-S … 1,200,000
1934 …… 20,213,003
1934-D … 7,480,000
1935 …… 58,264,000
1935-D … 12,092,000
1935-S … 10,300,000
1936 …… 119,001,420
1936-D … 24,814,000
1936-S … 14,930,000
1937 …… 79,485,769
1937-D … 17,826,000
1937-S … 5,635,000
1938-D … 7,020,000

44 thoughts on “Buffalo Nickel”

  1. I have an Indian head Nickel and it has no date but i can see were the words Liberty used To be. the coin looks very old. One one side there is the Bison with the words pluribus unum and on the other side is the Indian head but that side of the coin is upside down.
    Is it worth anything?
    Michael Houghton

  2. If it is a U.S. nickel, that was minted in 1913, it would have to be a buffalo nickel. The U.S. mint did issue a nickel (known as the ‘Liberty Head’ or ‘V’ nickel)in 1913 which is very rare. It has a lady on it. There are only five known. One sold at auction for almost $4 million on Jan. 10, 2010. Most likely what you have is a buffalo nickel., which has a buffalo (or Bison) on the reverse. If your coin has a ‘V’ on the reverse, then you are a very very lucky person. Even if it is just a buffalo nickel, if the date is readable it is worth at least $8 – $10. If it has a mint mark, which would be the inscription ‘five cents’ it is worth much more! If it has a ‘D’ (minted in Denver) it is worth about $15 or more considering the condition. That is if it of the ‘variety 1’ type, which has no line above ‘FIVE CENTS’ on the reverse. If it is a variety 2. (with a line above ‘FIVE CENTS’) it is worth $100 or more. The buffalo nickel issue was also minted in San Fransisco. Variety 1 can go for $45 or more. Variety 2. can go for $300 or more. Again, the mintmark ‘s’ would be located underneath ‘FIVE CENTS’ on the reverse side of the coin. I hope this helps.

  3. i have a 1901 5 cents coin, with a v on one side, and a lady’s head on the other, is this coin worth anything ? would appreciate any news about this coin.. thanks

  4. I have a buffalo collection going. I worry about restored dates. I can tell, most of the time by the line above the date. And just the condition of the reverse in relation to the obverse gives me clues. If the reverse is in bad shape, and the obverse has a ‘strong’ looking date, I am suspicious. Some of the worst ones, to me are valuable even if the date is barely readable. Any restoration/acid dates are not cool. To some people maybe not though. Am I wrong? Buffalo nickels seem to be especially subject to restoration.

  5. See, Buffaloes are going to skyrocket on the collecting market. Watch it happen. Mark my words. People are selling a LOT of restored dates (more than any other type). And people are selling ones that they say are a certain date, but aren’t upon close inspection. In many cases, you can’t tell if it is a ‘2’ or a ‘3’ in the date. And time goes by. My suggestion is to collect Buffaloes, now – while they are still somewhat readable.

  6. My sister has a 1901 Indian Head nickel with a buffalo on the the back. It has a “V” on the nickel the date is clear. What is the value of this coin. Please respond.
    Thank you
    Marilee Jackson

  7. I have a 1935 Indian head nickel with the bison upside down on the back along with the line above the five scents and a D under the five cents mark. Is that worth anything? I’m not trying to give it up as it was given to me by a family member as a good luck coin and I had just found it again recently and was curious about it.

    • Hey Mandy, I have a 1935 coin just like you except mine doesn’t have any letter under the five cents. Did you ever find out if yours was worth anything? I’m just curious myself.

  8. I have a 1936 Indian head buckle the date is clear but the buffalo on the other side is upside down why is that? And is there any value in it? Thank you.

  9. Hello, I have acquired a 1930 Buffalo Nickel with letter “V” missing where it was stamped “five cents”. It does not look to be worn or rubbed off but a press error. Is this rare? Would it change it’s value?
    Thank you

  10. I have a two sided Indian head nickel but with a bison on both sides no indian head? No date?
    Can you help me out

  11. I have a 1929 indian head that has an error ,it the bison is upside down when fliped over and it has a small triangle imprint on both sides at the top of indian head and very bottom of coin right at the grass line. Does this have a value?

  12. Is there any value to a 1937 Buffalo Indian head nickel and its in good mint condition.is there any coin collector interested in my nickel.

    • The 1937 Buffalo Nickel is worth approximately 18 to 20 in uncirculated condition unless it is the 1937 D 3 Leg in which case it goes for around $1000

  13. I have an Indian nickel with the five cents under the line and no lettering under the five cents. There is no date on it and under the United States of America it has E Pluribus Unum. The bison is also upside down from the Indian head. Any idea what year this is and how much it’s worth?

    • Hi, I have a nickel with the same markings. So far my research has been limited on it. Did you ever get an answer on yours? Thanks

  14. 1934 Indian nickel with Pluribus misspelled plus us, is there any value associated with this coin, also seems very close to mint condition

  15. I have a coin with no date or letter under he “Five Cents” but it does have the line above it, so I believe it’s a type 2. On the side with the buffalo the words “E Pluribus Unum” are there. I was wondering if the 1913 coins were the only ones with a type 1 or 2. Also is there any way to tell the age of th coin?

  16. Ok my buffalo nickel has a man, who is not an Indian on the back, he wears a hat, has a big beard, even looks a little like a black man, I can find no image of this coin online, the date says 1913 or 1915
    It’s hard to read the last #

  17. I have a 2005 copper nickel, with president jefferson on the front side and the buffalo “upside down” on the back side with ( what i believe spells out) E PLURISUS UNUM , stating five cents, under the buffalo. is my coin rare,unique, valuable beyond its normal worth…….

  18. Can anyone tell me something about the 1921 buffalo nickel I found where there is a V on the buffalo I can’t find anything about it anywhere please somebody help me figure this out the local shop was amazed and said they have never heard or seen anything like it

  19. I have a buffalo nickel type 2, no mint marks, last 2 digits of the date looks like a 2 and a 3. But hard to tell. It’s old, but in oretty good shape. Any use in holding onto it? Or no value?

  20. What is a buffalo nickle with close am and it’s a 1936 d nickle the date is seen on the coin and how much is it worth with a close am if there’s a such thing

  21. Hello, I have a 1936 Indian head-bison or buffalo nickel, the bison-buffalo is upside down. Can you give me an idea of it’s worth. Lettering is good.

  22. I have a Buffalo Indian nickel with the five cents line above it. E plumbuaurs or whatever it says and I would like to know its value. There is no mint mark either. Can you help. I also noticed the front leg on the right side has a partial, it’s either a 3 leg or five.

  23. I have a 1935 buffalo nickel that is stamped 2 or 3 times upsdide down and right side and has the date on top and bottom

  24. I have a 1924 P Buffalo nickel with the Buffalo printed upside down from the Indian side. I can’t find any information on why/how the reverse is stamped upside down. Looking at the front, the Indian head is right side up, but when turned over, the buffalo is facing downwards.

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