Indian Head (Buffalo) Nickels (1913-1938)

General Coin Information

The Indian Head Nickel was introduced by the US Mint in 1913 and was struck for circulating currency through 1938. While the official name "Indian Head Nickel" certainly describes the coin, most refer to it as the Buffalo Nickel.

Featured on the reverse of the coin is an image of an American Bison, known incorrectly by most as a Buffalo. When settlers first encountered these enormous creatures, they did not know what to call them and compared them to the water buffalo they were familiar with from other continents. Consequently, the name stuck and today Americans use the terms buffalo and bison interchangeably.

Designer James Earl Fraser supposedly used a bison known as 'Black Diamond" in the New York Park Central Zoo as his model for the coin, which originally had the animal on a mound. Premature wear of the denominational inscription of "Five Cents" forced an almost immediate design change to lower the profile of that mound.

Collectors will find that Indian Head Nickels are quite easy and for the most part affordable to collect. It was quite common for many of these coins to be found in pocket change well into the 1960's.

Obverse Design

The obverse of the Buffalo contains an image of a Native American Indian. It is said that the designer Fraser used three different models (all Indian Chiefs) to create the profile. The inscriptions "Liberty" and the date are also found on the obverse.

Reverse Design

Featured on the reverse of the Indian Head Nickel is an image of an American Bison (also known to many as a buffalo), thus giving the coin its nick-name of buffalo nickel. The inscriptions "United States of America," "Five Cents" and the mintmark (if present) are also shown on the reverse.

Indian Head Nickel Coin Specifications

   
   Mint: United States Mint
   Finish/Condition: Circulated
   Metal Content: 75% copper, 25% nickel
   Weight: 5 gms
   Diameter: 21.2mm
   Edge: plain
   Issue Date: 1913-1938
   Face Value: $.05
   Obverse Designer/Sculptor: James Earle Fraser
   Reverse Designer/Sculptor: James Earle Fraser

Featured Indian Head Nickel Auctions




1938 D Buffalo Indian Head Nickel F Fine B01
1938 D Buffalo Indian Head Nickel F Fine B01
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1931 S Buffalo Indian Head Nickel F Fine B05
1931 S Buffalo Indian Head Nickel F Fine B05
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1915 S Buffalo Indian Head Nickel AG About Good B01
1915 S Buffalo Indian Head Nickel AG About Good B01
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1938 D Buffalo Nickel Choice BU US Coin
1938 D Buffalo Nickel Choice BU US Coin
$43.26
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1913 TYPE I BUFFALO NICKEL RAISED GROUND 5 COIN LOT 3
1913 TYPE I BUFFALO NICKEL RAISED GROUND 5 COIN LOT 3
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1913 T1 VG Indian Head Buffalo Nickel see our store for other coins weak date
1913 T1 VG Indian Head Buffalo Nickel see our store for other coins weak date
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1918  1923 Buffalo Nickels 946 942
1918 1923 Buffalo Nickels 946 942
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4 Buffalo Nickels 1926 P 1927 P VG 1928 P 1929 P Fine Lot100
4 Buffalo Nickels 1926 P 1927 P VG 1928 P 1929 P Fine Lot100
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5 Buffalo Nickels 1920 P VG 1923 P 1924 P Good  1926 P 1927 P VG 103
5 Buffalo Nickels 1920 P VG 1923 P 1924 P Good 1926 P 1927 P VG 103
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1925 S Buffalo Nickel N947
1925 S Buffalo Nickel N947
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2 Buffalo Nickels 1934 P Very Fine  1934 D Good 104
2 Buffalo Nickels 1934 P Very Fine 1934 D Good 104
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1925 S Buffalo Nickel N944
1925 S Buffalo Nickel N944
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Indian Head Nickel Resources

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