The "Indian Head" portrait was developed for the "Buffalo nickel" or "Indian Head nickel" - a copper-nickel five-cent piece that was struck by the United States Mint from 1913 to 1938. It was designed by sculptor James Earle Fraser. The portrait is not of a specific person; according to the author, it is a composite of at least three different people - Iron Tail, an Oglala Sioux chief, Two Moons, a Cheyenne chief, and Big Tree, a Kiowa chief (although more than one person later claimed to have been the one and only prototype).
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. The designs were approved in 1912, but were delayed several months because of objections from the Hobbs Manufacturing Company, which made mechanisms to detect slugs in nickel-operated machines. The company was not satisfied by changes made in the coin by Fraser, and in February 1913, Treasury Secretary Franklin MacVeagh decided to issue the coins despite the objections.
Despite attempts by the Mint to adjust the design, the coins proved to strike indistinctly, and to be subject to wear - the dates 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 authorization, it was replaced by the Jefferson nickel, designed by Felix Schlag. Fraser's design is admired today, and has been used on commemorative coins and the gold American Buffalo series.
This portrait should not be confused with the "Indian Head Liberty" design displayed on one-cent coins between 1864 and 1909 which features the Goddess of Liberty wearing an Indian headdress, and not an actual American Indian person.
Indian Head on a Buffalo Nickel
The portrait has been shown on this type of coins between 1913 and 1938.
|Five Cents 1913 Buffalo Nickel||73,659,220||LIBERTY 1913|
|Five Cents 1914 Buffalo Nickel||28,047,738||LIBERTY 1914|
|Five Cents 1915 Buffalo Nickel||30,061,270||LIBERTY 1915|
|Five Cents 1916 Buffalo Nickel||88,691,066||LIBERTY 1916|
|Five Cents 1917 Buffalo Nickel||65,527,019||LIBERTY 1917|
|Five Cents 1918 Buffalo Nickel||45,330,314||LIBERTY 1918|
|Five Cents 1919 Buffalo Nickel||76,395,000||LIBERTY 1919|
|Five Cents 1920 Buffalo Nickel||82,200,000||LIBERTY 1920|
|Five Cents 1921 Buffalo Nickel||12,220,000||LIBERTY 1921|
|Five Cents 1923 Buffalo Nickel||41,857,000||LIBERTY 1923|
|Five Cents 1924 Buffalo Nickel||28,315,000||LIBERTY 1924|
|Five Cents 1925 Buffalo Nickel||46,271,100||LIBERTY 1925|
|Five Cents 1926 Buffalo Nickel||51,301,000||LIBERTY 1926|
|Five Cents 1927 Buffalo Nickel||47,141,000||LIBERTY 1927|
|Five Cents 1928 Buffalo Nickel||36,783,000||LIBERTY 1928|
|Five Cents 1929 Buffalo Nickel||52,570,000||LIBERTY 1929|
|Five Cents 1930 Buffalo Nickel||28,284,000||LIBERTY 1930|
|Five Cents 1931 Buffalo Nickel||1,200,000||LIBERTY 1931|
|Five Cents 1934 Buffalo Nickel||27,693,003||LIBERTY 1934|
|Five Cents 1935 Buffalo Nickel||80,656,000||LIBERTY 1935|
|Five Cents 1936 Buffalo Nickel||158,745,420||LIBERTY 1936|
|Five Cents 1937 Buffalo Nickel||102,946,769||LIBERTY 1937|
|Five Cents 1938 Buffalo Nickel||7,020,000||LIBERTY 1938|