Did You Know there are Two Types of Buffalo Nickel?


Everyone loves the Buffalo nickel, the last circulating U.S. coin with a Wild West look. But comparatively few collectors are aware that there were actually two varieties of the historic coin.

Stackable Art:

The Buffalo nickel was created by one of America’s most illustrious sculptors, James E. Fraser. He had trained under the great Augustus Saint-Gaudens, creator of the magnificent 1907-1933 “Standing Liberty” $20 gold piece.

As a sculptor, Saint-Gaudens wanted his coins to have some of the chiseled “raised relief” effect of statues that was seen on classical coins. But in the modern age, banks wanted coins to be easily stackable, which significant high relief would make difficult.

Hence, after complaints from banks, the original 1907 high-relief Saint-Gaudens $20 gold piece was recalled by the U.S. Mint Director. A new Type II quickly emerged with flattened relief, which became the standard. (Elusive 1907 Type I Saints today command about ten times as much as Type II’s.)

Similarly, Fraser designed his original Buffalo nickel with some raised relief — most prominently in the ground on which the buffalo stands. But after the acclaimed release of the 1913 first Buffalo nickels, banks again objected that stacking was adversely affected. And the Mint Director prevailed on Fraser to flatten that area of the coin — the Type II planed down the raised mound with a simple flat line.

Naturally, Fraser felt disappointment that his original conception was modified due to practical considerations. But at least his artistic intentions were realized in the first issue.

Availability Issues:

Scarce “Raised mound” 1913 Type I Buffalo nickels comprised just 3% of the later 1913-1938 Type II mintages. And after recall from banks in 1913, a large proportion of the Type I mintage was lost in government melts.

That would lead you to believe those original issues would be more expensive to acquire. But when compared to 1913 Type II coins minted later in the year with the new design, the original 1913 Type I coins are more available and therefore can be more affordable.

Where to Go From Here:

Coin varieties like these are part of what makes collecting so enjoyable and are an important part of a complete set. As you work on your Buffalo nickel series collection you’ll want to be sure to include both 1913 Type I and Type II issues.

Happy coin hunting!

This entry was posted in Buffalo nickel type 1 and type 2, Buffalo nickel type I and type II, Buffalo nickel types, Flat line buffalo nickel, Raised Mound Buffalo nickel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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