A Classic American Design: The Buffalo Coins

Have you ever heard of a Buffalo nickel? These were the nickels produced in the United States from 1913 to 1938, and though they had a pretty short life at the Mint, they’ve always been popular with the American people, some of whom think of the nickel as a sign of good luck! While the Buffalo nickel is no longer produced, other Buffalo coins have been.

Let’s learn about the history of the much-loved Buffalo design and the coins that it now appears on!

The Buffalo Nickel

When Theodore Roosevelt was president, he decided that American coinage wasn’t beautiful enough. He requested that all the coins in America get newer, more pleasing looks. The nickel didn’t get its change until after Roosevelt was out of office, but the coin was worth the wait.

A man named James Earle Fraser, who was also a sculptor, created the design of the legendary Buffalo nickel.  The coin featured the profile of a Native American on the front. This portrait is said to be a combination of three great chiefs: Two Moons, Iron Tail, and Big Tree. The back of the coin featured the profile of an American Bison, better known as the buffalo.

While the design made a beautiful nickel, the U.S. Mint soon found that it didn’t hold up well to everyday life. The year of issue often wore off on these nickels so that you couldn’t tell what year it was minted. Because the Mint couldn’t figure out how to get the year to stay on the coin without making big changes its design, the Buffalo nickel didn’t last long.

Sometimes you can still find Buffalo nickels, especially if you ask your older relatives to look at their older coins. The Buffalo nickel has so much history; it’s a great coin to have in your collection.

The Silver Buffalo

Though the Buffalo nickel’s production ended in 1938, America’s love of the design did not. In 2001, the U.S. Mint issued a commemorative Silver Dollar featuring a slightly altered version of the Buffalo design. The coin still shows the Native American chief on the front and the American Buffalo on the back, but the year of issue looks different, and hopefully doesn’t wear off!

This silver round is made of 1 troy ounce of pure silver and has a face value of $1. Right now the coin is a pretty fair price, but with some saving you could buy one. It’s a good addition to your collection because it had such a limited mintages. Only 500,000 were made.

Note that there is a Buffalo silver round minted by a company called NTR. While this silver round has a similar design as the official Buffalo coins, it is not made by the U.S. Mint. You can tell because it doesn’t have a year of issue or a face value on the coin. These coins are still nice silver bullion, but should not be mistaken for U.S. Mint coins.

The Golden Buffalo

In 2005, the U.S. Mint began making its first ever .999 24k gold Buffalo coin. For such an important coin, it chose again the special design of the Buffalo nickel. These coins weigh one ounce and have a face value of $50. They are very precious, and cost over $1,000 a piece!

Regardless of if you own a nickel, a silver dollar, or one day save up for a gold coin, all the Buffalo coins are beautiful and rich with the history of our nation. Keep reading learn more about the history of the coins in your collection!