MINDENMINES, Mo. (KSNF) — Throughout the history of the United States Mint, many different designs have made their way onto American coins, but few of them are more popular than the Buffalo Nickel.
“The buffalo nickel was introduced 110 years ago in 1913, and that series ran through 1938. The coin, which is very popular, features the date and an image of a Native American on one side, and on the reverse there’s the image of a buffalo that was modeled after a Buffalo called ‘Black Diamond’ who was in the New York City Zoo,” said Dave Sorrick, a coin expert and collector at In God We Trust, LLC.
The coin’s designer, James Earle Fraser, stated that he wanted to do something, “totally American and create a coin that could not be mistaken for any other country’s coin.” As part of our Western background, Fraser felt that the buffalo, “was 100% American, and that the North American Indian fitted into the picture perfectly.”
“One of the features of the Buffalo nickel series is a variety that we call a ‘1937 D three legged.’ It was a variety caused by over-polishing the dyes and the image looks like the buffalo is standing just on three legs. That variety is rare enough that it’s sought after by collectors,” said Sorrick.
The highest amount ever paid for a ‘1937 D three legged’ was in 2021. The coin’s pristine condition was the main reason it fetched a record price of nearly $100,000 at auction. Experts believe that around 10,000 of these unique coins are in existence today, with around 15% of these existing in uncirculated, Mint State grades.
However, the majority of Buffalo nickels can be worth anywhere from $0.51 for a 1937 coin in “good” condition to $1,524 for a 1921 S coin in “mint” condition.
“Price guides will give you an idea of the value of collectible coins. But, if you’re looking to accurately determine the exact dollar amount of a Buffalo nickel that you’ve come across or have held onto for many years, then I would suggest you talk to a reputable coin collector or a coin dealer, and preferably someone who has many years of experience,” said Sorrick.
Don’t have a Buffalo nickel lying around? Your state quarter collection (especially one specific quarter) or stash of $2 bills could still fetch you a pretty penny.