Buffalo Nickel

1913 – 1938

The name “Buffalo Nickel” is actually a misnomer, as the animal appearing on the reverse is in fact a bison and not a buffalo. The true name of this very popular coin is the Five Cent Indian Head, however, the name “Buffalo Nickel” seems to have been set as its most widely used and accepted name.

The obverse of the Buffalo Nickel features a portrait of a Native American. The “Indian Head” was actually a composite of three different chiefs; John Big Tree, Iron Tail and Two Moons. The word “LIBERTY” appears next to the rim on the upper right side across from the Native American’s eyes.

Buffalo Nickel (Indian Head Five Cents)

Buffalo Nickel (Indian Head Five Cents)

The reverse side of the coin features an American Bison, which was confused as a buffalo by the early Americans. The model for the bison is said to have been taken from a well known bison named Black Diamond at the Central Park Zoo. The words “UNITED-STATES-OF-AMERICA” appear in an arc across the top, with the words “E PLURIBUS UNUM” just below the word “AMERICA” and above the bison. “FIVE CENTS” appears at the bottom.

Soon after the Buffalo Nickel went into production it was discovered that the reverse design had a problem. The words “FIVE CENTS” were inscribed upon a raised mound shape which made it very susceptible to wear. During that first year the design was modified by removing the mound so that the words would be lower. It is interesting to note that there was a similar problem with the date, but that was not modified. As a result it is very common to see circulated Buffalo Nickels without a readable date.

The 1913 Buffalo Nickel with the raised date on the mound is known as “Variety 1”, the remainder of the coins are known as “Variety 2”

There are other varieties and oddities including, but not limited to:

  • 1916/1916 Doubled Die
  • 1918/1917-D Doubled Die Over-date
  • 1935 Doubled Die Reverse
  • 1937-D which is known as the “3 Legged” Buffalo Nickel. The missing leg was a result of an already heavily worn die being over polished.
Buffalo Nickel (Indian Head Five Cents)

Buffalo Nickel (Indian Head Five Cents)

Any Buffalo nickel with a readable date is worth at least thirty-five to forty cents, however, some Buffalo Nickels are worth thousands of dollars.

Buffalo Nickel Specifications

Diameter: 21.2 mm
Weight: 5.0 g
Composition: 75% Nickel 25% Copper
Edge: Plain
Designer: James Earle Fraser

Written by David Slone, Copyright 2008 CoinCollectorGuide.com

Image of The Buffalo Nickel

The Buffalo Nickel

Image of Harris Buffalo Nickels 1913-1938 Coin Folder 2678

Harris Buffalo Nickels 1913-1938 Coin Folder 2678

Image of The True Story of Nickel: The Baby Buffalo Who Thought He Was A Dog

The True Story of Nickel: The Baby Buffalo Who Thought He Was A Dog

Image of 1937 U.S. Buffalo Nickel

1937 U.S. Buffalo Nickel

Buffalo Nickel Mintage Numbers

1913 Type 1 … 30,993,520
1913-D Type 1 … 5,337,000
1913-S Type 1 … 2,105,000
1913 Type 2 … 29,858,700
1913-D Type 2 … 4,156,000
1913-S Type 2 … 1,290,000
1914 …… 20,665,738
1914-D … 3,912,000
1914-S … 3,470,000
1915 …… 20,987,270
1915-D … 7,569,000
1915-S … 1,505,000
1916 …… 63,498,066
1916-D … 13,333,000
1916-S … 11,860,000
1917 …… 51,424,019
1917-D … 9,910,000
1917-S … 4,193,000
1918 …… 32,086,314
1918-D … 8,362,000
1918-S … 4,882,000
1919 …… 60,868,000
1919-D … 8,006,000
1919-S … 7,521,000
1920 …… 63,093,000
1920-D … 9,418,000
1920-S … 9,689,000
1921 …… 10,663,000
1921-S … 1,557,000
1923 …… 35,715,000
1923-S … 6,142,000
1924 …… 21,620,000
1924-D … 5,258,000
1924-S … 1,437,000
1925 …… 35,565,100
1925-D … 4,450,000
1925-S … 6,256,000
1926 …… 44,693,000
1926-D … 5,638,000
1926-S … 970,000
1927 … 37,981,000
1927-D … 5,730,000
1927-S … 3,430,000
1928 … 23,411,000
1928-D … 6,436,000
1928-S … 6,936,000
1929 …… 36,446,000
1929-D … 8,370,000
1929-S … 7,754,000
1930 …… 22,849,000
1930-S … 5,435,000
1931-S … 1,200,000
1934 …… 20,213,003
1934-D … 7,480,000
1935 …… 58,264,000
1935-D … 12,092,000
1935-S … 10,300,000
1936 …… 119,001,420
1936-D … 24,814,000
1936-S … 14,930,000
1937 …… 79,485,769
1937-D … 17,826,000
1937-S … 5,635,000
1938-D … 7,020,000

Filed under: Nickels


29 Responses to “Buffalo Nickel”
  1. Doris Coffey says:


    Can you tell me if an Indian Head Nickle without a date has any value?

    Thank You

  2. Michael Houghton says:

    I have an Indian head Nickel and it has no date but i can see were the words Liberty used To be. the coin looks very old. One one side there is the Bison with the words pluribus unum and on the other side is the Indian head but that side of the coin is upside down.

    Is it worth anything?

    Michael Houghton

  3. Deborah D says:

    i hv a 1913 nickel wt a lady on it and 1901 indian head on it and a dime 1916 r they any value

  4. Stephen Holder says:

    If it is a U.S. nickel, that was minted in 1913, it would have to be a buffalo nickel. The U.S. mint did issue a nickel (known as the ‘Liberty Head’ or ‘V’ nickel)in 1913 which is very rare. It has a lady on it. There are only five known. One sold at auction for almost $4 million on Jan. 10, 2010. Most likely what you have is a buffalo nickel., which has a buffalo (or Bison) on the reverse. If your coin has a ‘V’ on the reverse, then you are a very very lucky person. Even if it is just a buffalo nickel, if the date is readable it is worth at least $8 – $10. If it has a mint mark, which would be the inscription ‘five cents’ it is worth much more! If it has a ‘D’ (minted in Denver) it is worth about $15 or more considering the condition. That is if it of the ‘variety 1’ type, which has no line above ‘FIVE CENTS’ on the reverse. If it is a variety 2. (with a line above ‘FIVE CENTS’) it is worth $100 or more. The buffalo nickel issue was also minted in San Fransisco. Variety 1 can go for $45 or more. Variety 2. can go for $300 or more. Again, the mintmark ‘s’ would be located underneath ‘FIVE CENTS’ on the reverse side of the coin. I hope this helps.

  5. Jami Downes says:

    i have a 1901 5 cents coin, with a v on one side, and a lady’s head on the other, is this coin worth anything ? would appreciate any news about this coin.. thanks

  6. Stephen Holder says:

    I have a buffalo collection going. I worry about restored dates. I can tell, most of the time by the line above the date. And just the condition of the reverse in relation to the obverse gives me clues. If the reverse is in bad shape, and the obverse has a ‘strong’ looking date, I am suspicious. Some of the worst ones, to me are valuable even if the date is barely readable. Any restoration/acid dates are not cool. To some people maybe not though. Am I wrong? Buffalo nickels seem to be especially subject to restoration.

  7. Stephen Holder says:

    See, Buffaloes are going to skyrocket on the collecting market. Watch it happen. Mark my words. People are selling a LOT of restored dates (more than any other type). And people are selling ones that they say are a certain date, but aren’t upon close inspection. In many cases, you can’t tell if it is a ‘2’ or a ‘3’ in the date. And time goes by. My suggestion is to collect Buffaloes, now – while they are still somewhat readable.

  8. Marilee Jackson says:

    My sister has a 1901 Indian Head nickel with a buffalo on the the back. It has a “V” on the nickel the date is clear. What is the value of this coin. Please respond.

    Thank you

    Marilee Jackson

  9. Mandee says:

    I have a 1935 Indian head nickel with the bison upside down on the back along with the line above the five scents and a D under the five cents mark. Is that worth anything? I’m not trying to give it up as it was given to me by a family member as a good luck coin and I had just found it again recently and was curious about it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hey Mandy, I have a 1935 coin just like you except mine doesn’t have any letter under the five cents. Did you ever find out if yours was worth anything? I’m just curious myself.

  10. Natalie says:

    I have a 1936 Indian head buckle the date is clear but the buffalo on the other side is upside down why is that? And is there any value in it? Thank you.

  11. Paul Haskell says:

    Hello, I have acquired a 1930 Buffalo Nickel with letter “V” missing where it was stamped “five cents”. It does not look to be worn or rubbed off but a press error. Is this rare? Would it change it’s value?

    Thank you

  12. m burns says:

    the buffalo is upside down when turned over how much is it worth

  13. Anonymous says:

    I have a two sided Indian head nickel but with a bison on both sides no indian head? No date?
    Can you help me out

  14. AnneMarie says:

    Has anyone heard of a buffalo nickel with Bison on both sides? No date
    Thank you

  15. Gary g says:

    I have a 1936 e Buffalo nickel, not the best of conditions,
    Any info or want it”s worth

  16. mary says:

    I have a 1929 indian head that has an error ,it the bison is upside down when fliped over and it has a small triangle imprint on both sides at the top of indian head and very bottom of coin right at the grass line. Does this have a value?

  17. Ki says:

    I have a 1934 Indian head nickel with no letter? Do you know why it wouldn’t have a letter?

  18. Connie Fahlstrom says:

    Is there any value to a 1937 Buffalo Indian head nickel and its in good mint condition.is there any coin collector interested in my nickel.

    • Old Coin Collector says:

      The 1937 Buffalo Nickel is worth approximately 18 to 20 in uncirculated condition unless it is the 1937 D 3 Leg in which case it goes for around $1000

  19. Cristina says:

    I have an Indian nickel with the five cents under the line and no lettering under the five cents. There is no date on it and under the United States of America it has E Pluribus Unum. The bison is also upside down from the Indian head. Any idea what year this is and how much it’s worth?

  20. adrian sao says:

    i have a 1935 E plurbus unum coin is it worth anything?

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