Above all, a buyer has to decide if the coin is genuine. An authentic coin should be trouble-free, and overall look attractive. The currency needs to appeal to the consumer, whether circulated or uncirculated. Be sure that the date is apparent when purchasing circulating coins, and that as many design specifics remain on the coin as possible for your budget. Ensure the coin is appealing for uncirculated coins, which cost considerably more, and is either approved by PCGS or NGC.
Yet buffalo nickels usually aren’t getting-rich things from collectors — so what are some of the more intangible merits of collecting them?
Coin collecting is part of a broader discipline called numismatics, the study of coins, tokens, medals, and related objects. It is a passion that has dominated the minds of the rich and the poor for more than 2,000 years. In the numismatic community, you will find people ready and happy to share with you their love and appreciation of history and these beautiful artifacts.
- On the obverse, the Native American is not a single person. According to the sculptor who crafted the coin, James Earle Fraser, the figure is a combination of three Native Americans, including Iron Tail, an Oglala Lakota leader popular in the late 1800s. He was one of the stars of Wild West shows by Buffalo Bill and was frequently photographed in traditional Native American clothes.
- It was the first coin to depict a non-Eagle mammal. The bison, which appeared on nickels in 1913, was the first animal on a circulating American coin, which was not an eagle, according to the US Mint.
- The first version of the nickel buffalo showed the pet standing on a mound. The mound was later turned into a more flat floor, making more space for the words “five cents” and protecting the coins against wear.
- The nickel buffalo did not even produce a whole lot of nickel. Just 25 percent of the coin was made of nickel, while the other 75 percent was made of copper.
- Your shift in value will triple. A well-worn buffalo nickel is worth anywhere from 15 cents to 25 cents, with the date partly or wholly rubbed out.
Classification on buffalo nickels
The following are buffalo nickel rating types, as illustrated in the PCGS. The condition on the reverse of the coin is generally determined by wear.
- FR / AG: This means “fair” / “about good.” The dates are well-worn, and the lettering will be worn down to the bottom.
- G / VG: This means “good” / “very good.” You will be able to see the full date and the simple lettering.
- F / VF: This means “fine” / “very fine.” You’ll need to be able to see your nickel horn on the bison to gain that score.
- EF / AU: It means “extremely fine” / “about uncirculated.” The full horn tip on the buffalo is noticeable if you’re lucky enough to get this rating.