Tyler Heldt's Blog

10 Jul 2022

history on the buffalo nickel

Coins | Tyler Heldt

The buffalo nickel or Indian head nickel was a unique coin minted between 1913 to 1938 it was the predecessor to the Jefferson nickel. The buffalo nickel was designed by James Earle Fraser as part of the United States government drive to beautify coinage. This was the coin after the well known v-nickel and the buffalo nickel was its successor. When the United States government commissioned Fraser to create the buffalo nickel and when they saw the final product they were impressed. The design was approved by the United states government in 1912 but was held up for months because the Hobbs manufacturing company (which made the slugs for the coins) did not like the design of the buffalo nickel. Eventually franklin McVeigh the treasury secretary at the time decided to bypass Hobbs manufacturing and start the production of the buffalo nickel in 1913. The first buffalo nickels were distributed in February 22 1913 when president Taft showed them off during a ceremony. The coins were officially circulated march 4 1913 and were well received by the United States public. The buffalo nickel was made in three mints the Philadelphia mint with no mint mark, the Denver mint with the D mintmark and san Francisco with the S mint mark. In 1913 The Numismatist gave the new buffalo nickel a lukewarm review and suggested that the Indian head should be reduced but other than that most of the reviews were positive and the coin was a good coin in the United states public's eyes. But there were some problems with the new coin. It was destroying the dies that made the coin. The dies were being used up 3 times faster than the V-nickel or liberty nickel. This was a big problem for the United States Mint because it was using more dies than the United states mint could make. Also the dies would wear the coins away fast and make some not so good looking coins. As this happened the United states mint made new dies that would not wear the coins down and would not break as much as the last dies would. In 1916 the word liberty was given more emphasis and moved slightly on the coin. But this affected the Denver and san Francisco mint dies and made their coins less quality and affected the output of coins in circulation. Tens of millions of buffalo nickels were minted between 1910 and 1921 but then a recession happened and buffalo nickels were not minted in 1922. This started the downfall of the buffalo nickel and the United States mint was looking for replacements and was eventually replaced by the Jefferson nickel.

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