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1913 Buffalo nickel offers two designs

All of a sudden it seems like the nickel has been the topic of conversation. It?s amazing what a few years of different designs can sometimes do for the popularity of a coin. In the case of the Buffalo nickel, however, the popularity of the design may well help to keep Buffalo nickels a little more popular than most other types of the denomination.


When it comes to the Buffalo nickel, you really have to learn about each date in terms of its availability, especially in circulated grades. The Buffalo nickel had a design flaw in that the date was too high, which meant that it was the first part of the design to vanish with wear. That wreaked havoc with supplies and makes it hard to tell just how tough a certain date might be in lower circulated grades based only on the mintage.

The 1913-D is actually a classic example of the situation in part because there are two 1913-D Buffalo nickels. That was also a result of a design flaw. The James Earle Fraser design, while enormously popular, started out with a design that had the animal standing on a mound. The denomination was placed on that mound and 1913 production began before officials discovered that the denomination had become the highest part of the design and might well wear off quickly. That brought back some horrors of the past. The first Liberty Head nickels were issued with only a large Roman Numeral ?V? but no CENTS. Some of the coins were then gold plated and passed off as $5 gold pieces. While that was unlikely with the Buffalo nickel, officials were still taking no chances deciding immediately to change the reverse by putting the animal on a line so the denomination could be lower in the design.


Before the change was made the 1913-D had a total mintage of 5,337,000. It was not a high total, but some were saved as it was the first year of a new design. That results in prices today of $12.50 in G-4 while an MS-60 is $62.50 with an MS-65 at $330. If you check the grading service totals you find that while not common even in MS-65, the 1913-D is available in some numbers.

In theory, the 1913-D with the animal on a line, which was produced the same year to the tune of 4,156,000 pieces, should be a little tougher. After all, it had a lower mintage and those wanting the new design already had them by the time the line type 1913-D appeared. We see evidence of that in its Mint State prices, which in MS-60 show it at $285. In MS-65 the 1913-D line type is at $1,575, almost five times the price of the mound type in the same grade. Where things are really interesting, however, are in G-4 as there the mound type is $12.50 but the line type is at $110 putting it behind only a couple other Buffalo nickel dates in that grade.

Obviously, there has to be a story to explain the $110 G-4 price of the line type 1913-D. The line type 1913-D was apparently one of the dates that had the greatest number of coins lose their dates as they circulated.

It makes sense, though, as the 1913-D was from the first year so it had longer than any other date to circulate and in the case of Buffalo nickels that meant a greater chance to lose its date. The mound type even without a date can actually be identified by the mound as it was only used in 1913, but a line type could be from any year. Both 1913-D nickels are worthy of collecting.