Assessing the Value of Buffalo Nickels (1913-1938)


The Indian Head or Buffalo Nickel (1913–1938) is a rare and valuable coin sought after by many collectors. This article will explore the history and significance of the Buffalo Nickel.

1. History of the Buffalo Nickel

James Earl Fraser’s design for the Buffalo Nickel was part of the American Coinage Renaissance initiated by President Theodore Roosevelt. The obverse features a composite portrait of several Native American chiefs, contrary to claims made by some tribal leaders.

Numismatic scholars have been unable to confirm or refute the notion that the image of an American buffalo on the back of the coin is based on a Black Diamond animal from the New York City Zoo. Unfortunately, this remains an unresolved mystery.


The United States Mint initially designed the buffalo nickel with a buffalo perched atop a dirt mound, accompanied by the words “FIVE CENTS” rising above it. This design flaw caused the denomination to be lost early on. To rectify this, the Mint modified the design in 1913, recessing the denomination below the coin’s rim.

2. Market Analysis

In recent years, Indian Head or buffalo nickels have experienced a period of stability. Following a peak in 2008, certain key dates and rare varieties have seen a decrease in value. As these coins contain neither silver nor gold, they are unaffected by fluctuations in the prices of these precious metals.

Intermediate and experienced coin collectors take great pleasure in assembling a set of high-grade buffalo nickels, despite the series not being popular among novice collectors. Consequently, coins of superior quality will always have a market, regardless of whether they are being bought or sold.


Intermediate collectors should focus their budget on assembling a complete set of perfectly matched buffalo nickels. Advanced collectors, however,
may seek to acquire uncirculated coins with rare dates and variations.

3. Key Dates, Rarities, and Varieties

Buffalo Head Nickels, regardless of condition, are significantly more valuable than regular ones. This has led to the creation of fake or altered versions of these coins, with typical Buffalo Nickel values being used as a guide. To ensure that you are not the victim of a scam, it is recommended that you have the coin certified by a reputable coin dealer or third-party grading agency before considering any financial gain.

  • 1913-Type 2
  • 1916/16 (doubled die variety)
  • 1918-D 8 over 7 (doubled die variety)
  • 1921-S
  • 1924-S
  • 1926-S
  • 1937-D Three-legged Buffalo

Novice numismatists should familiarize themselves with the process of identifying the most valuable Buffalo Head Nickels, which should include illustrations and comprehensive descriptions.

4. Condition

Circulating currency is typically identified by its use and resemblance. Coins used for business and public circulation will often show signs of wear, as small pieces of metal are removed from the surface due to handling, placement in money drawers, and dropping on the ground.

Uncirculated buffalo nickels are those that show no signs of wear from usage and resemble the example in the link. To determine the exact grade of
your coin, it is recommended to consult a numismatist or coin dealer.

5. Mint Marks

Buffalo nickels, produced by the US Mint, were manufactured in three separate factories, each with its own mint mark: Philadelphia (no mint mark),
Denver (D), and San Francisco (S). The mint mark can be found on the reverse of the coin, adjacent to the denomination “Five Cents.”


6. Indian Head or Buffalo Nickel Average Prices and Values

The date and mint mark of a typical circulating buffalo nickel are listed in the first column (see the image above). The buying price, or the amount a dealer would expect to pay for the coin, is listed in the second column, followed by the sale value, or the amount a dealer would pay if the coin were to be sold.


Values of Buffalo Nickels are contingent upon legible dates. The average uncirculated buying price and sale value are provided in the following columns.

Approximations of retail and wholesale prices are shown here; however, the offer you receive from a particular coin dealer may vary depending on the coin’s exact grade and other factors that influence its value.

Date & Mint Circ. Buy Circ. Sell Unc. Buy Unc. Sell
1913 Type 1 $11.00 $5.50 $45.00 $31.00
1913-D Type 1 $14.00 $7.00 $80.00 $60.00
1913-S Type 1 $42.00 $21.00 $150.00 $110.00
1913 Type 2 $11.00 $6.00 $55.00 $40.00
1913-D Type 2 $90.00 $55.00 $300.00 $250.00
1913-S Type 2 $280.00 $150.00 $900.00 $700.005
1914 $17.00 $9.00 $69.00 $47.00
1914 4 over 3 $420.00 $200.00 $4,400.00 $3,500.00
1914-D $90.00 $50.00 $500.00 $330.00
1914-S $31.00 $15.00 $290.00 $210.00

Buffalo nickels are a popular choice among coin collectors, both novice and experienced. With a rich history and unique design, these coins are sure to captivate any collector. For more information on buffalo nickels, be sure to follow our website.

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