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Do you own a Buffalo nickel with no date and are curious how much it is worth?
Year dates play an important role in numismatics as they help collectors and graders contextualize a coin and determine its comparable value.
So, without a date, determining the value of a coin can be quite difficult, as is the case with Buffalo nickels.
Buffalo nickels without a date have no intrinsic value. But some niche collectors specialize in these coins mostly because of their peculiarity.
In this guide, we’ll explore the reason for the missing date on Buffalo nickels and how to find the value of these interesting coins.
Let’s get started!
The History of Buffalo Nickels
The Buffalo nickel, officially known as the Indian head nickel, is a five-cent coin struck by the United States Mint from 1913 to 1938. The renowned sculptor, James Earle Fraser, designed the coin as part of the U.S. Mint’s drive to spruce up American coins.
The Buffalo nickels were struck at San Francisco, Denver, and Philadelphia. The coins feature a Native American Indian on the obverse and a bison or buffalo on the reverse.
After the Mint was satisfied with Fraser’s design, production began immediately, and the first Buffalo nickels were released into circulation on March 4, 1913.
But, the Mint quickly noticed the inherent difficulties of striking the new Indian head nickel. The strike was indistinct, and the design on both the obverse and reverse was highly prone to wear once the coins were in circulation.
According to Chief Engraver Charles Barber, the Indian head nickel wore out or broke three times faster than its predecessor, the Liberty Head Nickel. In particular, the date and coin’s denomination, FIVE CENT, were prone to significant wear and could wear out completely in no time.
In response, Barber tried to correct the problem by redesigning the Indian head nickel. The new design sought to lower the date and ONE CENT, making these features less exposed to wear.
The redesigned coins were still prone to wear and wore out even faster than the original Buffalo nickels designed by Fraser.
Unsurprisingly, the Treasury and Mint were keen to discontinue this coin. So, when the 25-year period lapsed, and Treasury didn’t need congressional approval to replace the coin, plans were underway by early 1938 to design a new coin that would take after the Indian head nickel. This coin would be the Jefferson nickel.
Also read: Top 10 Most Valuable Nickels Worth Money
Features of the Buffalo Nickel
Before we find out how to determine the value of a Buffalo nickel with no date, let’s get familiar with the physical features of the Buffalo nickel.
The Obverse of the Buffalo Nickel
On the obverse/heads side of the Buffalo nickel is a depiction of a right-facing Indian. It is said that the sculptor, James Fraser, studied three models when designing the coin’s obverse design.
The word LIBERTY appears at the top of the coin along the rim, while the date is shown on the lower left, on the model’s shoulder. You will also notice the letter F below the date, denoting the sculptor’s surname.
The Reverse of the Buffalo Nickel
The reverse of the Buffalo nickel features a bison, also known as a buffalo, standing on a mound. A real-life buffalo at the Bronx Zoo inspired the bison.
The words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA appear at the top of the coin along the rim, followed by the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM.
At the bottom, the coin’s denomination, FIVE CENTS, is shown cradled on a mound. As mentioned, the Mint quickly discovered that the positioning of the mound caused the FIVE CENT lettering to wear out too fast.
In response, the Mint redesigned the coins by flattening the mound into a straight line, resulting in what is known as Type II Buffalo nickels. Type I Buffalo nickels are those with a mound on the reverse.
Other Features of the Buffalo Nickel
Buffalo nickels are round coins made of 75% Copper and 25% Nickel.
These coins are relatively heavy, weighing 5 grams and measuring 21.20 millimeters in diameter. They have a plain edge.
Indian head nickels were struck at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints. Nickels minted in Denver and San Francisco will have their respective mint marks, D and S, shown on the reverse underneath FIVE CENTS.
Buffalo Nickel With No Date Value Guides
Before we learn how to find the value of Buffalo nickels without a date, it helps to understand why these coins do not have a date in the first place.
Many collectors wrongly assume Buffalo nickels without a date are minting errors or special varieties that must be worth good money.
The truth is, no-date Buffalo nickels are neither special nor valuable errors. These coins were dated when they were first struck, but the date wore out over the years.
The design of the Indian head penny was problematic from the beginning. Features such as the date and the denomination were designed with a high relief, making them prone to wear, even after being redesigned a second time.
In addition, Buffalo nickels are very old coins and have been in circulation for more than 100 years, so you can expect most of them to be worn. It is also worth noting that Buffalo nickels were popular since they were released and were, therefore, widely circulated, which partially explains why the majority of the coins are popular.
You may come across Indian head pennies with partial dates, where the last two digits are visible, allowing you to determine the coin’s date and value.
Tool for Buffalo Nickel With No Date Value: Coin Value Checker
How To Find the Value of A Buffalo Nickel With No Date?
Revealing the date is the fastest way to determine the value of your Buffalo nickel. One way collectors mine for dates on no-date coins is by pouring ferra chloride acid on the coin, specifically on the Indian model’s shoulder where the date usually is.
Ferra chloride acid, packaged as Nic-a-Date in your local store, contrasts the coin’s surface to expose the underlying date.
The downside of using acid is that it may permanently damage the coin, especially if you use this method more than once to determine a coin’s date. That said, if the acid test is successful and reveals the date, you are better positioned to determine the value of your Buffalo nickel and even discover if it is among the key dates.
So, how much is a Buffalo nickel with no date worth?
It is impossible to accurately figure out how much a Buffalo nickel without a date is worth. But, as a general rule, Buffalo nickels are typically worth more than their face value, even in circulated condition.
According to the Numismatic Guaranty Company, you can expect between $1 and $60 for Buffalo nickels in circulated condition.
Buffalo nickels can be worth a fortune in mint state, but examples are rare in these high grades. It is common for key date specimens graded MS67 to fetch as much as $6,700.
Here is a list of the ten most valuable buffalo nickels by date. This price chart might give you a feel for what Buffalo nickels are generally worth.
Most Valuable Buffalo Nickel Price Chart
|1917||1917 D Buffalo Nickel||$10,925|
|1937||1937 D Buffalo Nickel : 3 Legs||$54,625|
|1929||1929 P Buffalo Nickel||$63,250|
|1935||1935 P Buffalo Nickel||$57,500|
|1923||1923 S Buffalo Nickel||$67,562|
|1920||1920 D Buffalo Nickel||$97,750|
|1919||1919 S Buffalo Nickel||$109,250|
|1913||1913 S Buffalo Nickel||$192,000|
|1915||1915 S Buffalo Nickel||$52,900|
|1925||1925 D Buffalo Nickel||$57,500|
Buffalo Nickel Grading
Most Buffalo nickels are poorly struck, especially those with a D or S mint mark. Even uncirculated examples may show indistinctiveness both on the obverse and reverse.
Circulated examples are typically highly worn out and may not be a worthwhile addition to your collection. Your best bet is to pay attention to uncirculated Buffalo nickels.
The first sign of an uncirculated specimen is the presence of a clear, distinct date. Examine the Indian’s cheek, the braided portion of the hair, and the top for signs of dulling. High grade nickels will show original luster and frost on these high spots.
On the reverse, check the bison’s hip, back, and above the horn. In uncirculated Buffalo nickels, these spots should have no signs of wear or color change but should instead retain brilliant luster.
Also read: 14 Most Valuable Nickel Errors Worth Money
Where on a buffalo nickel is the date?
The date on a Buffalo nickel is found on the Indian’s shoulder. If you cannot see the date, it is probably worn out. Using a substance such as ferra chloride acid can help reveal the coin’s date even slightly.
What is a dateless Buffalo nickel worth?
It is hard to tell the worth of a dateless buffalo because dates help to contextualize coins. But, as a general rule, Buffalo coins are worth between $0.20 and $1 in circulated condition but some dates might fetch as much as $60 in circulated condition. In contrast, some mint state specimens can fetch hundreds of dollars depending on their popularity.
How can you tell if a buffalo nickel is rare?
Buffalo nickels are not rare, as the Mint struck millions for each date. That said, coins in mint state with most details intact on the obverse and reverse are rare, given that most Buffalo coins were widely circulated. Notable errors such as the 1937 3-legged bison and some doubled-die obverse have a low population and may be slightly more valuable than regular strike examples.