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




2 buffalo nickels years unknown
2 buffalo nickels years unknown
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Vintage Buffalo Nickel Cufflinks and Quarter Eagle Stick pin
Vintage Buffalo Nickel Cufflinks and Quarter Eagle Stick pin
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1916 D Buffalo Nickel FULL HORN EXTRA FINE SCARCE DATE Way below book value
1916 D Buffalo Nickel FULL HORN EXTRA FINE SCARCE DATE Way below book value
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1916 D Buffalo Nickel NICE ORIGINAL COIN SCARCE DATE
1916 D Buffalo Nickel NICE ORIGINAL COIN SCARCE DATE
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1923 buffalo nickel
1923 buffalo nickel
$5.00
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1937 Buffalo Nickel  Brilliant Uncirculated  Gorgeous Coin  BU
1937 Buffalo Nickel Brilliant Uncirculated Gorgeous Coin BU
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1902 Morgan Silver Dollar VG Very Good with 1930 S Buffalo Nickel Fine Coin Lot
1902 Morgan Silver Dollar VG Very Good with 1930 S Buffalo Nickel Fine Coin Lot
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Full Set of Buffalo Nickels 62 Total Coins
Full Set of Buffalo Nickels 62 Total Coins
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Vintage Whitman Buffalo Nickel Coin Boardcollection Dates 1913
Vintage Whitman Buffalo Nickel Coin Boardcollection Dates 1913
$22.00
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Buffalo Nickles Lot of 10
Buffalo Nickles Lot of 10
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SEMI KEY DATE 1914 Buffalo Nickel Indian Head AG+ Condition GSB 17 GREAT FILLER
SEMI KEY DATE 1914 Buffalo Nickel Indian Head AG+ Condition GSB 17 GREAT FILLER
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1913 TYPE 1 BUFFALO NICKEL PCGS MS66 UNCIRCULATED SHARP
1913 TYPE 1 BUFFALO NICKEL PCGS MS66 UNCIRCULATED SHARP
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Indian Head Nickel Resources

World Mint Coins | Coin Specifications, Resources and Coin Images