thatcoinguy's Blog

26 Feb 2022

Why Are Some Buffalos Dateless?

Coins-United States | thatcoinguy

The Buffalo Nickel is a wonderful example of the American history on coinage. It depects an Native American (actually a combination of three Native Aerican's portraits) on the obverse facing right. On the reverse, a BISON mejestically stands facing left on a mound. The inspription "Five Cents" is on the mound on some 1916 coins, and underneath the mound on buffalos made from 1916 until the Jerfferson Nickel took it's place in 1938. On the obverse, an F is underneath the date, which will be the prime focal point for today's blog.

With a bit of searching, Buffalo nickels can be occasionally be found in coin rolls. If you were lucky, the date will be fully legible. However, in most instances the date is not legible and cannot be read. Why is this? Well, the answer lies In the coin's design. The coin's designer, James Earl Fraser, designed the buffalo nickel in a high relief. The highest relief (in my opinion) that had ever been seen on a coin at the time. The highest point on the design, which is usually the best point for grading coins, is the date. As a coin circulates through general commerce, the highest focal point will be the place that shows wear first. In this instance, that is the date. That is why many circulated Buffalo Nickels lack a date. Years of circulation have worn it off through the pockets and other coins of people of the time. As I mentioned earlier, the date is the highest point on the design, unlike any other US coin. That means that the first design element to wear off on this piece of American history will, sadly for us, be the date. The ratio of dateless coins to coins with dates in the Buffalo nickel series is not known, however most heavily circulated specimens will usually display this phenomenon.

Dealers will sometimes buy dateless buffalo nickels for 20 cents a piece. However, if someone uses nick-a-date to read the full date, it can be worth up to 20% of the market value of one with an actual date.

Keep collecting,




Level 5

Wonderful design - uniquely American.


Level 5

I am currently putting together a nickel collection (Indian Head/Buffalos) included, hence my last blog. I also own a few of those “dateless” Buffalos. My grandmother left me a couple as did my step-dad. At first, I didn’t know what to make of them i.e. in terms of cataloging them. I now know much more about the origin and design of this coin and have also “fell in love” with it! Thanks for sharing!

Kevin Leab

Level 4

I'm in the process of finishing my set of Buffalos. Whenever I get dateless Buffalos I like to put them back in circulation...maybe some kid will find it and they'll start collecting.


Level 3

That is awesome! I wonder how many are still out there, and how many people have started collecting because they saw one in circulation?

I. R. Bama

Level 5

That's a really nice thing to do!

AC Coin$🌎

Level 6

I agree with the coin functionality as well as the tear and wear. However, the fact such nice item is in your hands should be enough since you can appreciate the coin for much more than its intrinsic value. In the late 1800's that indian head was way too different. THANKS.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Well I have a theory.... The relief was too high in the area of the dates and the rim was too low to protect the date. I have a running joke from an old movie I love called Life With Father. Father refused to be baptized and his son mentioned that in his Episcopalian chatechism that the unbaptized had "no name in the sight of the Lord." I say they have no date in the sight of the Lord! And I have a special place of rest in one of my safes


Level 5



Level 6

I love the Buffalo Nickel! The dateless ones are cool to use as buttons or jewelry. Its a great design indeed! ; )


Level 6

Beautiful design. One of my favorites. As you state even the dateless ones have value as art. Many buttons have been crafted out of them. Also saw-pierced jewelry. Personally, I wouldn't buy one that has been treated with acid to bring the date up. Just me. No judgement. Thanks, nice work.


Level 5

I agree with Longstrider I love the Buffalo nickels and these are truly American. I’m not a fan of the dateless ones but a Buffalo nickel is a Buffalo nickel. Thanks for the blog!

Long Beard

Level 5

In my opinion, this is the only coin design which could be labelled as truly American. No matter where you are in the world, an Indian and Buffalo will most likely be mentioned with "America" in the same sentence. Love those!

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