This month we celebrate the centennial of one of America’s favorite coins: James Earle Fraser’s Indian Head 5-cent piece, perhaps better known to collectors and noncollectors as the “Buffalo nickel.”
They were struck from 1913 to 1938 and are deeply familiar coins with an “All-American” design depicting two icons of the West: a Native American and, on the reverse, a bison.
It’s also a series with its quirks. The date wears off easily, leaving millions of heavily circulated “Buffalo nickels” dateless. There are two distinct design subtypes, a legendary overdate in the 1918/7-D and, of course, there’s the charming 1937-D Three-Legged Bison variety.
Simply put, few series offer the diversity and collecting challenges of the “Buffalo nickel.”
As we look back to a classic coin, we also look to the future in our paper money section where Michele Orzano samples selections from the many nations that are embracing polymer notes.
Australia introduced its first polymer bank note 25 years ago and today more than 50 nations have circulated or are currently circulating so-called “plastic” notes. Even the venerable Bank of England has announced that the issuance of polymer bank notes is under consideration.
The U.S. Treasury has not yet embraced a polymer substitute for Federal Reserve notes, but it has experimented with the concept and has studied Australia’s model.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing confirmed to Coin World in September 2012 that as many as 40,000 sheets of Federal Reserve notes were printed on a polymer substrate known as DuraNote. Unfortunately for collectors, these sheets were destroyed.
On Oct. 8, the BEP is set to release the new “NexGen” $100 note, which incorporates new security features such as a blue 3-D security ribbon. It was initially set to be released in 2010, but the release has been postponed several times.
One can only wonder what the next generation of U.S. paper currency will look like, as security features — and counterfeiters — get increasingly sophisticated.
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