Buffalo Nickel (1913-1938)
One of the most beloved of United States coin designs, James E. Fraser’s Indian Head/Buffalo Nickel was nearly abandoned at the outset due to protests from the vending industry that its bold design would not activate their machines properly. These concerns proved unfounded, though the coin did have some technical flaws. The value FIVE CENTS had to be set within an exergue midway through the first year’s production to protect it from wear. Sadly, the same was not done for the date, and countless pieces were rendered unidentifiable after just a couple decades in circulation.
This is among the most popular of series with date and mint collectors, as there are no rare issues to prevent its completion. Scarce coins include nearly all mintmarked examples before 1916, most prominently 1913-S Type 2 and 1914-D. Still others are condition rarities, readily available in worn condition but quite scarce uncirculated and with sharp impressions.
This series has a number of very dramatic varieties, the most desirable being the 1916 doubled-die obverse, the 1918/7-D overdate and the 1937-D three-legged bison. Numerous minor varieties are known, too, and these receive more attention than they would merit in series that are less popular than the Buffalo Nickel.
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