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Buffalo nickel passes acid test

Buffalo nickels with acid-restored dates I was told by Lima, Ohio, dealer Larry Briggs are “bigger than what you would think, but not as big as you would hope.”

You can collect them.

I was glad to be able to find this out in a conversation with him at his bourse table over the weekend at the Michigan State Numismatic Society 60th anniversary convention in Warren.

I had asked whether restored dates were considered collectible on the front page of the Nov. 15 issue of “Numismatic News.”

Conventional wisdom when I was active with Nic-A-Date 50 years ago was that the dateless coins were ruined once I applied the acid to them.

In short, I was a numismatic vandal.

Well, even as a kid, I knew that ruined was a relative thing.

How can you ruin a coin that already is unidentifiable?

That tidbit has sat in the back of my mind ever since.

I did discover when I became a staff member of “Numismatic News” a decade later that handicraft makers who use Buffalo nickels in the American Southwest cannot use coins with the dates restored.

So belt and hat band demand for the acid-treated coins was ruled out.

But Larry was kind enough to update me.

He had visual aids.

He pulled out a page of 2x2s from a plastic binder that contained 20 Buffaloes with acid-restored dates.

All of them were the 1918/7-D overdate.

Whoa. The 1918-/7-D is a rarity.

The page was some nice visual aid.

He said each one of the acid-treated coins can be retailed for $250 to $300.

An overdate that grades good without the acid trades in the marketplace for $800 to $900.

So collectors who are willing to take on the “scarlet letter” of acid-restored dates can build a collection of Buffalo nickels for a whole lot less cost.

Larry said there are some Buffalo nickel dates that just do not turn up as acid-restored in his experience.

They are the 1930-S, 1931-S and 1938-D.

Did these three nickel dates simply not have enough wear, or stand up to wear better than others?

We will probably never know.

Acid-restored dates on Buffalo nickels at the present time are not a driving force in the marketplace.

Larry said, “It’s a minor market and it is limited.”

But it is a useful market.

As Larry put it, “I try to appeal to all the collectors whether they have a lot of money or a little.”

After 50 years of guilt over vandalizing dateless Buffalo nickels with acid, I see that I have been absolved of my numismatic cultural crime.

Thanks, Larry.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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