|Coin Type||Five Cents, Buffalo Nickel|
The Buffalo Nickel or Indian Head Nickel is an American copper-nickel five-cent piece (abbreviated as 5¢) 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.
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.
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.
||UNITED · STATES · OF · AMERICA FIVE CENTS E PLURIBUS UNUM
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.