The design for the Indian Head Buffalo nickel was approved in 1912, although there were a few discrepancies, so the coin was minted between 1913 – 1938. The designer, James Faser, was commissioned by the Taft administration to beautify American coinage by updating the Liberty Head design that was currently in place.
This 5-cent coin, consisting of 3 parts copper and 1 part nickel is the same weight, diameter, and overall size as the former Liberty Head nickels, but has a plain edge. When inspecting these coins in person, be sure to look for the mint mark located underneath the “five cents” on the back side of the coin, so that you are aware of where this coin was made. It will give you a better idea of its worth today as they are collectible coins.
1. There Were Initial Design Concerns There was a lot of back and forth about the design of the Indian Head Buffalo nickel, but none more troublesome than the Hobbs Group. The Hobbs group was concerned that the new designs would cause problems with their machine which was designed to detect counterfeit nickels. Although there was a lengthy legal discussion, it was concluded that the Indian Head nickel was to be minted and the Hobbs’ machine didn’t actually work well.
2. All American Design When Fraser was tasked with designing a nickel to inspire people, he went with an all-American design paying homage to the North American Indian and the American Buffalo. The front of the coin, featuring the Native American, is a design taken from multiple tribes and not one specific group. Even so, this has not stopped several people, over the years, from claiming that they are the model and inspiration. The American Buffalo on the back was modeled after, Black Diamond, a Buffalo in the Bronx zoo.
3.An Attempt To Beautify Coinage. At a time when it was decided that coinage could only be redone every 25 years, the American nickel was an exception to this law. Because of this, the beautification of this common coin was pushed.
4. Circulation Took Its Toll A good number of well-circulated Buffalo nickels have taken on a lot of wear. For example, it is normal to find circulated coins without years on them due to wear. This is common due to the raised surface of the coin thereby allowing the dates to rub off from everyday handling.
5. The Inspiration For The Gold Buffalo Series
The Indian Head buffalo nickel was a great American inspiration and is still an inspiration for the gold buffalo series today. The work of the artist Fraser has been immortalized with the continued circulation of these nickels as well as the coinage inspired directly by his work.
American History Preserved
The Indian Head Buffalo nickel coin is a piece of American history. A relatively small coin with a low denomination, it packs a hearty story that has had a lasting impact on the coinage that followed. Uncirculated Indian Head nickels with minimal wear fetch a high price amongst collectors. Be on the lookout for Indian Head nickels, and consider adding them to your collection.