Buffalo Nickel Key Dates, Rarities and Varieties

Learn to Recognize the Valuable Buffalo Nickels

There are several Buffalo Nickel key dates and varieties and this article will help you identify these valuable coins. Below you will find a description of each coin with a photo to aid you in recognizing these them. Many factors go into determining the value of a coin and these are the valuable ones that you should be on the lookout for. Study the pictures and read the descriptions carefully. Please refer to the Buffalo Nickel value and price guide for current market trends of these coins.

  • 01 of 07

    1913-S Type 2

    1913-S Buffalo Nickel Type I Compared to Type II Variety
    1913-S Buffalo Nickel Type 2 Compared to Type 2. Images Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries, Ha.com

    In 1913 the U.S. Mint retired the Liberty Head nickel (or "V" nickel) design and started making the Buffalo nickel, also known as the Indian Head nickel. When the design first came out, the Buffalo on the reverse was standing on a mound of dirt. The raised letters specifying the denomination "FIVE CENTS" would wear away prematurely. To solve this problem the mint recessed the denomination so it would be protected by the rim and a line of dirt below the Buffalo. All three mints...MORE produced both varieties of these coins, but the San Francisco issue with the "S" mint mark on the reverse is the rarest of all.

  • 02 of 07

    1916/16 (Doubled Die Variety)

    1916 Buffalo Nickel Doubled Die Variety
    1916 Buffalo Nickel Doubled Die Variety. Image Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries, Ha.com

    In 1916 a production mistake yielded a dramatic doubled die on the obverse of the coin. Look for doubling in the last three digits of the date. You will notice that the duplicate digits are slightly to the right and lower than the more pronounced date of 1916. This is one of the most sought after of all the Buffalo nickel varieties. It is very valuable in circulated grades and very rare in uncirculated grades.

  • 03 of 07

    1918-D 8 over 7 (Doubled Die Variety)

    1918-D Buffalo nickel obverse double die 1918/7
    1918-D Buffalo Nickel Doubled Die Obverse. Image Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries, Ha.com

     At the Denver mint facility in 1918 another production mistake yielded a spectacular doubled die variety on the obverse. Although this variety is not as pronounced as the 1916 variety, it is still very obvious on the last digit of the date. Look carefully for an underlying "7" under the last digit "8" in the date. It is estimated that over 100,000 of these coins were produced and many of them circulated before collectors could snatch them up for their coin collections....MORE Therefore, the uncirculated specimens are extremely rare.

  • 04 of 07

    1921-S

    1921-S Buffalo Nickel Indian Head Nickel
    1921-S Buffalo Nickel. Image Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries, Ha.com

     In 1921 Buffalo nickels were only minted at the Philadelphia and San Francisco mint facilities. Philadelphia produced a majority of the specimens with a mintage of over ten million coins while San Francisco only produced about 1,500,000 coins. This 7 to 1 ratio makes the San Francisco the rare of the two issues produced in 1921. Circulated specimens are easy to find but you will still pay a premium for them.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    1924-S

    1924-S Buffalo nickel Indian head nickel
    1924-S Buffalo Nickel. Image Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries, Ha.com

    Slightly more affordable than the 1921-S issue is the 1924 San Francisco minted Buffalo nickel. Once again the Philadelphia mint produced a majority of the coins with a mintage that exceeded 21 million while Denver only produced slightly more than 5 million. The San Francisco mint made slightly less than 1.5 million coins. This 14 to 1 ratio makes this coin scarce and all grades.

  • 06 of 07

    1926-S

    1926-S Buffalo nickel Indian head nickel
    1926-S Buffalo Nickel. Image Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries, Ha.com

    In 1926 the San Francisco mint production trailed far behind both the Philadelphia and Denver mint's production numbers. Once again the Philadelphia mint produced a majority of the coins that year with a mintage of almost 45 million coins in Denver producing almost 6 million coins. San Francisco lagged significantly behind with only 970,000 coins.

  • 07 of 07

    1937-D Three Legged Buffalo

    1937-D Three Legged Buffalo Nickel
    1937-D Three Legged Buffalo Nickel. Image Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries, Ha.com

    In 1937 a production worker at the Denver mint facility tried to repair a damaged reverse die only to make things worse. There was a die clash in the lower left corner of the die by the buffalo's right leg. As he used a tool to remove the indentation on the die, too much metal was removed so that the detail from the buffalo's leg was also removed. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people will take a 1937-D Buffalo nickel with all four legs and remove the front leg. Therefore, make sure you...MORE acquire a certified specimen or purchase one from a reputable coin dealer.