Save the Denomination, But Not the Date

The Buffalo Nickel is one of the most popular and iconic United States coin series. It is beloved by collectors for its wonderful images of a Native American chief and American Bison, colloquially referred to as a “buffalo”. The series was introduced in 1913, but changes were quickly made to the design.

Originally the coins displayed a composite portrait of three aged Native American chiefs, Iron Tail, Two Moons, and John Big Tree. The resulting portrait was an image that could not be identified to any single tribe and represented one of the few realistic depictions of a Native American at the time. Previously the allegorical figure of Liberty had been incongruously portrayed with a headdress, leading to the association if not appearance. The date would appeared on the chief’s shoulder, which was a raised area of the coin.

The reverse includes a buffalo standing on a raised mound, thus the name Buffalo Nickel. The model was supposedly Black Diamond of the Central Park Zoo. The inscriptions “United States of America” and “E Pluribus Unum” appear above. The denomination as “Five Cents” appears on the raised area of the mount.

Before the completion of the first year of issue, it was noted that the denomination would eventually wear off in circulation due to its placement. This would not be a desirable result, so the design was modified. The area on which the buffalo stands was made recessed, with the words “Five Cents” protected within.The problem was solved.

Oddly, the placement of the date was not changed. In time many Buffalo Nickels would become dateless, since the digits would wear away in circulation. Today, some collectors can restore the missing dates with acid treatment.

Posted on March 25, 2011 at 6:40 am by admin · Permalink
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