Indian Coin History: The Buffalo Nickel, Indian Head Nickel

We can all thank Theodore Roosevelt for so many accomplishments in his lifetime from National Conservation Programs to the Panama Canal to winning the Nobel Peace Prize.  The list is quite endless and very impressive.  But many do not know that in 1904, it was his distaste for the American coinage program that led to revamping and redesigning of the US Coin Programs.  

One the the benefactors of this policy change was the design and minting of the historic Buffalo Nickel in 1913.  James Earle Fraser was selected as designer.  Fraser was an assistant to the famous sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  While there were striking issues and a change in the initial year of production, time has proven that the beauty of this coin is still revered in present time.  Frasier wanted the coin to be “totally American” and not be mistaken for any other country. At the time, there was nothing more American that the western bison and the American Indian. The Indian portrait was actually a composite of many different Indians instead of just one tribe. This is also the only regular issue US coin in which the animal is not an eagle.     

Every year, the US releases a new design for the commemorative silver dollar program.  The 2001 American Buffalo Silver Dollar is arguably one of the most popular Commemoratives of all present time.  The buffalo and Indian portrait on this coin is the exact same design from the original Indian Head Nickel.

Limited new designs of the Jefferson Nickel were introduced in 2004 and 2005 with 4 versions. One of these versions, the American Buffalo, was again arguably the most popular version of this series.

Adding to the popularity of these indian old coins was the 2006 American Buffalo Gold Bullion Coin.  This highly valuable gold coin is still minted every year due to the high demand.  Prices of this coin start at $1,350 USD.              

The Original Indian Head Nickel has a few variations.  From 1913 thru 1938, there a few versions that are more valuable than others whether it be a Type I, Type II, Double Die error or even a 3 Legs version.  While you may have a Buffalo Nickel …. do you know which one you actually have?  It can be quite a task to find out on your own.  Let us do the research and you can relax on your couch reading a book on Teddy Roosevelt’s long historical life.  Before you are done with your book, you will have your answer.