To all coin enthusiasts and numismats out there, the Buffalo nickel (also known as the Indian Head nickel), is a rather familiar five-cent piece. For those who are looking for more insight, despite familiarity or not, we’ve decided to gather all the interesting, essential information about the interesting history of this coin and present it to our readers. Of course, we’re going to take a deeper dive into the current market value of this coin, so if you’re lucky to be in possession of one, this is the article you need to read.

Trust us when we tell you that this was the coin that started the design and appearance revolution in the US Mint and coinage system. Because there is a lot to unpack, let’s dive right into it!

Buffalo Nickel

The Origin and History of the 1913 Buffalo Nickel

Prior to the Buffalo Nickel, people did pay attention, to some extent, to how their coins look like. But, the coins’ primary job was to be used by people to pay or get paid. However, everything changes when the sculptor James Earle Fraser presented his design for the new copper-nickel five-cent piece, later known as the Buffalo or the Indian Head nickel. But, why this name for the coin?

Well, the sculptor decided to feature a Native American and an American bison on the new five-cent, which was actually approved in 1912. However, the manufacturing company complained about the design making it harder to detect counterfeit coins in nickel-operated machines. With this, we urge our readers to also read between the lines here; this couldn’t possibly be that big of an issue, right?

Well, Treasury Secretary Franklin MacVeagh decided to disregard the objections and issue the coin in February 1913. The U.S. Mint continued to work on the design, tried to adjust it, and make it more durable. Truth to be told, the wear-tear issue was an actual issue, since the dates and the images would wear away easily. But, in order to change anything, the Mint had to wait for the ‘expiration date’, which is a minimum of 25 years.

During this period, the design couldn’t be replaced without congressional authorization. But, in 1938, it was high time things changed, and the Mint grabbed the opportunity by horns. This time around, the Buffalo nickels were replaced by the Jefferson nickels. And, the sculptor James Fraser was now replaced by Felix Schlag.

The Minting History

Because the 1913 Buffalo nickel was rather favored by the public, combined with the fact that the design changes couldn’t be implemented for more than two decades, the Mint decided to issue it in millions. Now, remember how we mentioned the issue with wear and tear of the coin previously; well, we’ve found out that the coin was actually adjusted, design-wise, just to make it last long enough until the new design is introduced. The chief engraver of the nickel, Charles Barber, actually decided to smooth out the Native American’s and bison’s images, preventing the coin from tearing in years to come.

Therefore, there are two types of the 1913 Buffalo nickel coin; the so-called Mound type (the polished one), and the Line type (Mount type would be the Type 2, while the Line type would be the Type 1, or the regular Strike). Both types have a rich minting history, both having been minted in millions of issues across different minting locations, as shown in the following tables;

1913 Buffalo Nickel (Type 1)  
Location Year Minted
Philadelphia 1913 29,857,186
Philadelphia 1913 proof 1,514
San Francisco 1913 S 1,209,000
Denver 1913 D 4,156,000
Total / 36,223,700
1913 Buffalo Nickel (Type 2)  
Location Year Mint Number
Philadelphia 1913 30,993,000
Philadelphia 1913 proof 1,520
San Francisco 1913 S 2,105,000
Denver 1913 D 5,337,000
Total / 38,436,520

The 1913 Buffalo Nickel Value

 Now that we’ve learned a little bit about the origin and history of the 1913 Buffalo nickel, it’s time we cover the current market value of this historic five-cent piece. Because there are different types of this nickel, as previously mentioned, we’re going to cover their individual value. The value of the nickel also changes in accordance with their origin; meaning, different minting locations produced different nickel quality, which changes the current value. For example, a 1913 Buffalo nickel, originating from the San Francisco Mint, will be 2 to 3 times more valuable than the one minted in Denver Mint, which you’ll see in more detail in the following paragraphs.

The 1913 Buffalo Nickel – Regular Strike (aka Type 1)


When it comes to the value of the Regular Strike 1913 Buffalo nickel, it is essential to bear in mind that this is its first edition; meaning, the wear-tear issue was still an issue, and the ‘Five Cents’ inscription was worn down on almost every single coin. Nevertheless, the fact that this is a ‘first-year’ coin issue and that it is a coin issue only in the year 1913 means a lot to the valuation process. Of course, the valuation and grading system for the Type 1 1913 Buffalo nickel varies according to the minting origin of the coin; again referring to the Mint where the coin was issued, Philadelphia, San Francisco, or Denver (San Francisco ones being the most valued as well).

Therefore, this coin, in its highest grades, can be estimated between 130 and 175 USD. The highest price ever offered at an auction for this type of 1913 Buffalo nickel coin was 79,312 USD, despite the fact that the estimated value didn’t exceed 35,000 USD. 

The 1913 Buffalo Nickel – Mound, Type 2 Value


As we mentioned previously, the Mound nickel is the nickel with the polished design, compared to the original nickel design done bt Mr. Fraiser. Let’s take a look at its value insights, but bear in mind that the estimated value changes. The following information is provided by the USA Coin Book;

In its good, to extra fine condition, the 1913 Buffalo nickel, Mound type, has an estimated market value between 17 USD and 100 USD. The least valuable would be the 1913 Buffalo nickel Mound type made in Denver, at approximately 15 to 17 USD. The highest value, for an extra fine condition, goes to the nickel minted in the San Francisco Mint, at 100 USD.

The uncirculated value of the nickel ranges between 33, 65, and 118 USD, again, according to the minting origin of the nickel; the cheapest one being minted in Philadelphia, and as such doesn’t have a mint mark (which would usually be a letter P on the coin). The value increases significantly when we take a look at the graded 1913 five-cent pieces. The MS 60, 1913 Buffalo nickel has an estimated value of up to 144 USD. The higher the grade, the higher the value. When we look at the Proof 65 grade, the value of the nickel reaches approximately 1,400 USD. The auction record for the Mound, or Type 2 1913 Buffalo Nickel reached 17,037 USD for a MS 67+ grade. 

The 1913 Buffalo Nickel – Proof Value

The 1913 Buffalo Nickel coin, deemed a Proof one, is the most valuable out of all previously mentioned pieces. The Proof edition is the finest example of the coin, for both Type 1 and Type 2 editions. Proof coins have crisp details, mark-free surfaces, and sharp borders. They’ve been preserved in sealed containers, and have never been released into circulation. The approximate grading range for the 1913 Buffalo Nickel Proof has been between PR 64, to PR 68. Let’s take a look at the current market value;



Final Thoughts

The origin story of the 1913 Buffalo Nickel is a highly interesting one. It is incredibly valuable to have insight into the history of this coin and its value, especially how both changed in the past century. Hopefully, we’ve provided you with all the necessary information, if you’re looking to sell or buy, but also if you were looking for a brief history lesson when it comes to iconic US coins. Whatever the reason may be, we are more than sure that this article is a good way to start the journey into the history of the US coins and numismatics. For more information, always make sure to check out the Professional Coin Grading Services, the USA Coin Book, and other similar sources. 

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