Five Cents, Buffalo Nickel, Coin Type from United States - detailed information

Five Cents, Buffalo Nickel, Coin Type from United States (issued 1913 - 1938)
Coin TypeFive Cents, Buffalo Nickel

The Buffalo Nickel or Indian Head Nickel is an American copper-nickel five-cent piece (abbreviated as ) that was struck by the United States Mint from 1913 to 1938. It was designed by sculptor James Earle Fraser. The alloy is the same as modern nickels, 75% copper and 25% nickel.

As part of a drive to beautify the coinage, five denominations of US coins had received new designs between 1907 and 1909. In 1911, Taft administration officials decided to replace Charles E. Barber's Liberty Head design for the nickel, and commissioned Fraser to do the work. They were impressed by Fraser's designs showing a Native American and an American bison.

Despite attempts by the Mint to adjust the design, resulting in some reverse varieties, the coins proved to strike indistinctly and to be subject to wear; the dates and even the denomination were easily worn away in circulation. In 1938, after the expiration of the minimum 25-year period during which the design could not be replaced without congressional authorisation, it was replaced by the Jefferson Nickel. Fraser's design is still admired today as a numismatic classic, and has been used on commemorative coins and the gold American Buffalo series.

These Buffalo Nickel five cents have not been recalled and are still current, although they do not circulate to any realistic extent - most having been worn out, lost or hoarded by collectors.

Obverse
United States / Five Cents, Buffalo Nickel - obverse photo

The obverse of the coin shows, within a plain border, the portrait of an American Indian man facing right, his plaited hair hanging below his shoulder, with a decoration of two large bird feathers hanging down in the back.

Around right, the inscription LIBERTY.

The date of issue: [year], is in relief on the Indian's shoulder. Incuse below that, a small letter F represents the initial of the sculptor, James E. Fraser.

Obverse Inscription LIBERTY [year]
Reverse
United States / Five Cents, Buffalo Nickel - reverse photo

Surrounded by a plain rim, the reverse of the coin shows an American bison (colloquially known as a buffalo, thus giving the coin its name), with its head lowered, standing to left.

Around above, the legend UNITED · STATES · OF · AMERICA. Below that, to the right and above the buffalo's back, on three lines the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM (from Latin: "Out of many, one").

In the exergue, the value and denomination in words: FIVE CENTS.

Reverse Inscription UNITED · STATES · OF · AMERICA FIVE CENTS E PLURIBUS UNUM
EdgePlainEdge InscriptionNone
Notes

The coins were officially released to circulation on 4th March 1913, and quickly gained positive comments as depicting truly American themes. However, their relief made it difficult for the Mint to strike them; the dies were being used up three times faster than with the Liberty Head nickel. In addition, the date and denomination were the points on the coin most subject to wear so it was quickly realised that they would easily get worn away completely.

Changes were made to both sides of the coin. On the reverse, in 1913, the words FIVE CENTS were enlarged and the ground on which the bison stands was modified from a hill to flat ground. On the obverse, the word "LIBERTY" was given more emphasis and moved slightly. However, none of these modifications helped; the coins are rarely found well-struck, and the design was subject to considerable wear throughout the remainder of its run.

Coin Type: Five Cents, Buffalo Nickel - (23) Coins
Coin NameMintageSymbolic PortraitLegend
Five Cents 1913 Buffalo Nickel 73,659,220 Indian Head LIBERTY 1913
Five Cents 1914 Buffalo Nickel 28,047,738 Indian Head LIBERTY 1914
Five Cents 1915 Buffalo Nickel 30,061,270 Indian Head LIBERTY 1915
Five Cents 1916 Buffalo Nickel 88,691,066 Indian Head LIBERTY 1916
Five Cents 1917 Buffalo Nickel 65,527,019 Indian Head LIBERTY 1917
Five Cents 1918 Buffalo Nickel 45,330,314 Indian Head LIBERTY 1918
Five Cents 1919 Buffalo Nickel 76,395,000 Indian Head LIBERTY 1919
Five Cents 1920 Buffalo Nickel 82,200,000 Indian Head LIBERTY 1920
Five Cents 1921 Buffalo Nickel 12,220,000 Indian Head LIBERTY 1921
Five Cents 1923 Buffalo Nickel 41,857,000 Indian Head LIBERTY 1923
Five Cents 1924 Buffalo Nickel 28,315,000 Indian Head LIBERTY 1924
Five Cents 1925 Buffalo Nickel 46,271,100 Indian Head LIBERTY 1925
Five Cents 1926 Buffalo Nickel 51,301,000 Indian Head LIBERTY 1926
Five Cents 1927 Buffalo Nickel 47,141,000 Indian Head LIBERTY 1927
Five Cents 1928 Buffalo Nickel 36,783,000 Indian Head LIBERTY 1928
Five Cents 1929 Buffalo Nickel 52,570,000 Indian Head LIBERTY 1929
Five Cents 1930 Buffalo Nickel 28,284,000 Indian Head LIBERTY 1930
Five Cents 1931 Buffalo Nickel 1,200,000 Indian Head LIBERTY 1931
Five Cents 1934 Buffalo Nickel 27,693,003 Indian Head LIBERTY 1934
Five Cents 1935 Buffalo Nickel 80,656,000 Indian Head LIBERTY 1935
Five Cents 1936 Buffalo Nickel 158,745,420 Indian Head LIBERTY 1936
Five Cents 1937 Buffalo Nickel 102,946,769 Indian Head LIBERTY 1937
Five Cents 1938 Buffalo Nickel 7,020,000 Indian Head LIBERTY 1938
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Five Cents, Buffalo Nickel: Details
CountryUnited States
CurrencyUS Dollar
Sub-type ofFive Cents
From1913
To1938
Face Value5 (x Cent)
CurrentYes
MaterialCuproNickel
DesignerJames E. Fraser
TechnologyMilled (machine-made)
ShapeRound
OrientationCoin Alignment (Axis 6)
Size21.200 mm
Thickness1.950 mm
Mass5.000 g