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Buffalo Nickels – Key Dates & Varieties

The Buffalo (or Indian Head) Nickel is the iconic design which beautifully represents the Old West. Designed by James Earle Fraser, the obverse features the head of an Indian Chief facing right. The reverse depicts an American Bison facing left, standing on a raised mound of earth.

The series was struck from 1913 through 1938, and during the first year there were two distinct types. The original design, Type I, has the Bison standing on a raised mound. Type II has the Bison standing on a much smaller mound and then a line below with the denomination “FIVE CENTS,” in order to protect the denomination from easily being worn away.

To read more about the origins of this nickel series, read our article about the history of the Buffalo Nickel.

Scarce Dates and Varieties

1913-S Buffalo Nickel, Type 1

The Type I coin from the San Francisco Mint saw only 2,105,000 coins struck. Due to the design, many are well-worn with the denomination unreadable. It is the scarcest of the three Type I coins.

1913-S Buffalo Nickel, Type I & Raised Mound Reverse

1913-D Buffalo Nickel, Type II

Both the Denver and San Francisco Mint coins of Type II were struck in limited numbers. Denver Type II coins were quite low in mintage, with only 4,156,000 coins minted. Compare that to the Philadelphia Type II which saw nearly 30 million coins struck.

1913-S Buffalo Nickel, Type II

This is truly a scarce date with only 1,209,000 coins struck. It bears the re-designed reverse.

1913-S Type II and the Re-designed Type II Reverse

1914 Buffalo Nickel 4 Over 3

It didn’t take long for the first Overdate to appear in this series. The upper and lower serifs of the “3” peek out from behind the “4” covering it. Sometimes visible in Good-4 grade, it is worth approximately $250 in well-worn Good-4 grade.

1914-D Buffalo Nickel

Here is another early Buffalo that only saw 3,912,000 coins struck. This date often is found fairly weakly struck with mushy details.

1916/1916 Doubled Die Obverse

On this scarce coin the date is strongly doubled. Often times the overdate can be seen, especially on the higher grade coins, without the aid of magnification. Even well-worn specimens bring thousands of dollars. Mint state examples bring in excess of $60,000.00!

1916/1916 Buffalo Nickel Doubled Die Obverse

1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel

A well-known, scarce variety of an early year Buffalo Nickel. Typical examples display the “8” in the date with a flat top because of the underlying “7” digit. These coins from the Denver Mint generally are not as well struck as their Philadelphia counterparts.

1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel Overdate, Closeup of Flat Top “8”

1918-D Buffalo Nickel

While searching for the “Flat Top 8” indicating the overdate, the regular issue of the 1918-D Buffalo nickel is in its own right a fairly scarce coin. The mintage is 8,362,000 coins.

1921-S Buffalo Nickel

Often this date and mintmark come weakly struck. Only 1,557,000 coins were originally minted. Be careful and watch for added mintmarks as there is a financial incentive to replicate the original.

1926-S Buffalo Nickel

Another San Francisco mint product that has a low mintage – only 970,000 coins were minted, and they come usually fairly weakly struck.

1935 Doubled Die Reverse

The doubling is most prominent on the lettering on the denomination “FIVE CENTS,” as well as on the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM.”

1936 with 3 1/2 Legs on Reverse

Not as well-known of an error coin, the 1936-D displays only 3 ½ legs on the Bison on the reverse. Scarce in all grades, buying a certified example is highly recommended.

1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo Nickel

Probably one of the best known of the Buffalo Nickel errors. Over-zealous polishing of the dies created this 3-legged creature that didn’t roam the Plains – or at least it didn’t get very far!

All that remains is a hoof on the ground. When available in well-worn condition, this coin easily fetches $500.00 and goes up as the grade improves. Uncirculated specimens are available starting at around $2,000.00, and Choice Uncirculated examples exceed $8,000.00.  An well-loved coin in the Buffalo Nickel series.

The Rare & Elusive 1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo, Closeup Rev.

There are also minor varieties such as the 1938-D/D and 1938-D/S varieties, but they have minimal value over the common 1938-D Buffalo Nickel.

Assembling a nice collection of Buffalo Nickels is not out of the realm of completion for most collectors. Keeping the coins in a similar condition, if financially feasible, makes the set even more salable as the coins will look well matched together.

Purchasing NGC or PCGS graded key date or variety valuable coins is highly recommended.


Date MMMintageVery FineAbt UncCh Unc
1913-S Ty I2,105,000$75$150$250
1913-D Ty II4,156,000$200$275$450
1913-S Ty II1,209,000$450$800$1,250
1914 4/3Unknown$650$2,000$4,500
1916/16 DDOUnknown$15,000$42,500$125,000
1935 DDRUnknown$225$3,000$6,250
1936-D 3.5 LUnknown$1,750$8,250$17,000
1937-D 3 LUnknown$900$2,250$5,750
Common DtUnknown$3$9$40

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