9 Rarest Buffalo Nickels Ever Made

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The Buffalo nickel, better known as the Indian Head five-cent nickel, was once used for buying an ice cream cone or a bag of candy whenever you felt like it. Buffalo nickels marked their place in history as some of the more valuable and sought-after memorabilia from this time. Thanks to the designer James Earle Fraser, the coin had a Native American man on its obverse, and an American Buffalo on the reverse side.

Produced in San Francisco (S), Denver (D), and Philadelphia (P) – coins were marked with the capital letter of their production city – from 1913 to 1938, this United States Mint (mark that follows the date) wasn’t composed of just nickel. With only 25 percent of nickel and the rest made from copper, it stood the test of time, but its production was limited to only 25 years due to poor printing quality.

Mint-condition nickels are hard to find nowadays, as used ones are found at auctions or in antique shops. It has lost its value over the years, but this unique coin could be a great addition to the collection for all numismatic lovers.

This list of the most valuable and rarest Buffalo nickels could help you expand your coin collection. 

  1. 1921-S Regular Strike
  2. Estimated Value: $51,750
    Estimated Number in Existence/Mintage: 1,557,000
    Mint Year: 1921, San Francisco
    1921-S Regular Strike
    photo source: USA Coin Book

    The United States produced Buffalo Nickels only in San Francisco (S) and Philadelphia (P) in 1921, so the production of these 1921-S Regular Strike nickels is considered lower, contrary to other years. San Francisco only produced around 1,557,000 coins, making it the rarer series out of the two.

    Even with this number, circulated coins could be found in stellar conditions for a much lower price, but one uncirculated sold for $51,750 at the auction by Stack’s Bowers Auction House in 2006. Since the recession began in the same year, there was no production of nickels until 1926.

    Did you know?

    The production had problems with the images on both sides of the nickel, as it wore off quicker than some of the other coins of different value. The bison’s legs and tail posed a problem, as that was the first part that rubbed off after coins circulated through pockets in the company of other coins. 

  3. 1937-D 3 Legs Buffalo Nickel
  4. Estimated Value: $99,875
    Estimated Number in Existence/Mintage: ~10,000
    Mint Year: 1937, Denver
    1937-D 3 Legs Buffalo Nickel
    photo source: PCGS

    This 3-Legged Buffalo nickel is a well-known variety among collectors. Made in Denver, this nickel includes a mistake in polishing by the workers. The pressman erased one of the bison’s legs, leaving an unfinished hoof, trying to remove marks from the reverse die.

    One of the 3-Legged bison’s sold in a nearly mint condition for $99,875 at an auction in 2021. According to the creator of the nickel, the bison that appears on the reverse of the coin is the American bison Black Diamond, which was the face of the 1901 USA ten-dollar bill as well.

    Did you know?

    Mistakes often happened at all three mints due to printing errors and recklessness in dies to name a few. One of the more known mistakes was the 1938-D/S overprint with “S” and “D” mintmarks made on the same nickels.

  5. 1935 Doubled Die Reverse
  6. Estimated Value: $104,650
    Estimated Number in Existence/Mintage: N/A
    Mint Year: 1935, Philadelphia
    1935 Doubled Die Reverse
    photo source: PCGS

    The 1935 Buffalo Nickel has a printing error due to a double die of “five cents” on the reverse side, just underneath the famous buffalo. The number of minted nickels with this mistake is unknown, but some records show that around 58,264,000 Buffalo nickels were produced in the same year.

    This production is the smallest mintage in the last three final years of this nickel production before it switched to Jefferson nickel instead in 1938. One of the rarer doubled die reverse coins sold for $104,650 at an auction in 2007.

    Did you know?

    These overprinted coins, also known as DDRs, are said to be in better condition than the rest from the same year due to not being circulated as much. Doubling errors are considered to have a higher premium than other error types.

  7. 1919-S Buffalo Nickel
  8. Estimated Value: $109,250
    Estimated Number in Existence/Mintage: 7,521,000
    Mint Year: 1919, San Francisco
    1919-S Buffalo Nickel
    photo source: USA Coin Book

    This postwar issue was deemed one of the worst-struck issues in the Buffalo nickel series because of how San Francisco mint made them. The low striking quality could be due to the war or the workers trying to extend the die life, but this mistake also raises its original value. 

    Since they are rare in mint condition, one sold for $109,250 at an auction by Heritage Auction House in 2006. These coins could have much lower prices, going from around $10 to $2,000 on average when in decent conditions. 

    Did you know?

    Indian Head Buffalo nickels replaced Liberty Head nickels by Charles Barber in 1913. The most expensive Liberty Head V nickel sold for $4,560,000 in 2018. 

  9. 1917-S Buffalo Nickel
  10. Estimated Value: $138,000
    Estimated Number in Existence/Mintage: N/A
    Mint Year: 1917, San Francisco
    1917-S Buffalo Nickel
    photo source: USA Coin Book

    With 75% copper and 25% nickel, this San Francisco mintage isn’t the rarest, but it reached a significant price at a Heritage Auction in 2008. It sold for $138,000, a striking difference from the circulated coins from the same series. 

    The 1917-S Buffalo Nickle is one of the earliest S-mints of this series, with some estimates of only ~5,000 known coins. But some other numbers suggest that they’re not as rare as they seem, as there could be much more in circulation, probably kept safe in collections.

    Did you know?

    The designer said that his Native American coin obverse had no particular model. But due to guesses of who the man could be, Fraser wrote that he used three Native Americans for the design – a Sioux Iron Tail; a Cheyenne Two Moons; and a Kiowa Big Tree. 

  11. 1913-D Buffalo Nickel
  12. Estimated Value: $143,750
    Estimated Number in Existence/Mintage: 4,156,000
    Mint Year: 1913, Denver
    1913-D Buffalo Nickel
    photo source: PCGS

    Buffalo Nickels‘ mintage ran between 1913 to 1938, so the first print series is pretty rare to find nowadays. The release of the coins was on March 4, 1913, the same time as this D Buffalo Nickel was stamped, with an American buffalo on a mound and a classical picture of an Indian man on the observe. 

    Collectors sold one of the first-printed coins for $143,750 at an auction by Stack’s Bowers Auction House in 2008. The rarity of the first edition is where its value lies. 

    Did you know?

    Buffalo nickels were replaced in just 25 years since the first minted coins because it was easy to wear them away in circulation, as the production seemed cheap at the time. They were replaced by the Jefferson Nickles, designed by Felix Schlag. 

  13. 1916/6 Doubled Die Variety
  14. Estimated Value: $281,750
    Estimated Number in Existence/Mintage: N/A
    Mint Year: 1916, Philadelphia
    1916/6 Doubled Die Variety
    photo source: PCGS

    Doubled Die Obverse gains its rarity due to a overstamp error as the production doubled number 6 in the date during engraving. That same year, Buffalo nickel changed designs, moving the word “Liberty” slightly to the side.

    Usually, these coins go for a much lower price, but one doubled die variety sold for $281,750 at Stack’s Bowers Auction in 2004. The printing error was noticed early, so the production of this series continued after only a few hundred double die coins were made. The exact number is unknown.

    Did you know?

    Buffalo Nickles were the first coins to feature a buffalo – or rather an animal that wasn’t an eagle. The first version featured the buffalo standing on a mound, but later it changed due to a lack of space for the words “five cents” to fit properly.

  15. 1926-S Buffalo Nickel
  16. Estimated Value: $322,000
    Estimated Number in Existence/Mintage: 970,000
    Mint Year: 1926, San Francisco
    1926-S Buffalo Nickel
    photo source: USA Coin Book

    Out of all Buffalo nickels, this production from 1926 had the lowest mintage of any coin in the Buffalo Nickel series, with only 970,000 produced coins. This Indian Head nickel had more changes since the original design changes in 1916, as the engraver elongated the Indian’s nose from this issue onwards.

    It can be worth up to $12,000, but the most expensive one sold for $322,000 in almost pristine condition at an auction in 2008, making it one of the priciest nickels ever sold.

    Did you know?

    This year’s mintage was the only mintage with less than 1 million nickels made because of the recession that began in 1921. The second-lowest mintage was four years later, counting around a million nickels.

  17. 1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel
  18. Estimated Value: $350,750
    Estimated Number in Existence/Mintage: N/A
    Mint Year: 1918, Denver
    1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel
    photo source: USA Coin Book

    The rarest and most prized Buffalo Nickel on this list is the 8 Over 7 Indian Head Nickel from 1917/1918. This coin from 1918 has an error as the 1918 date was stamped over the 1917 date, raising its rarity and value. The nickel tone is in golden-apricot and powder blue colors.

    The mintage for this Indian head nickel isn’t available, but the price for any piece can go between $1,000 and $80,000. The estimated value of this five-cent coin is around $350,750, but the highest price for one was $216,000, sold at Stack’s Bowers Auction in 2006.

    Did you know?

    With 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel, it doesn’t differ much from the same mintage coins, but the mistake is one of a kind, limiting the number of nickels in circulation. The overstamp or overdate was due to United States’ demand to circulate as many coins as they could during the end of World War One.


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