US Coins

Why this 'Buffalo nickel' is among finest of its kind

James Earle Fraser’s Indian Head 5-cent coins or “Buffalo nickels” are among the most beloved American coins.

On Dec. 15 in the last major rare coin auction of the year, Legend Rare Coin Auctions sold dozens of gorgeous, rainbow-toned examples from a stellar collection assembled over the last decade by Andy and Alynne Skrabalak of Angel Dee’s Coins and Collectibles.

Many of the offered lots represented the finest certified examples and all were selected for tremendous eye appeal. Bidders paid strong prices for these impressive “nickels.” 

Here is one of three we're profiling in this week’s Market Analysis.

The Lot:

1938-D Indian Head 5-cent piece, PCGS MS-68

The Price:

$12,925

The Story: 

The year 1938 was the last for the Indian Head 5-cent piece and examples struck that year at the Denver Mint came out particularly nice. It’s the most common coin in the series in Mint State grades, as many were saved in rolls; even in MS-67 examples can be found for $200 or so. In MS-68 the herd thins (so to speak), and PCGS has graded just 21 in MS-68 with none finer.

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Among those in MS-68, this 1938-D Indian Head 5-cent coin is among the prettiest. As Legend writes, “WOW! It’s like looking into a kaleidoscope.The vibrant colors mystify the eye.” It adds, “Magenta, pink, gold, orange and hints of green frame both sides.” The vibrant piece was one of the most colorful in the collection and it sold for $12,925.


Indian Head 5-cent coin

Indian Head 5-cent coin: The so-called "Buffalo nickel," which features the design work of renowned sculptor James Earle Fraser, is arguably the most "American" of all United States coins and is a collector favorite. How much are Indian Head 5-cent coins worth?


Read about more “Buffalo nickels” sold at the Las Vegas sale:

1835 Coronet centFirst-year ‘Buffalo nickel’ with great eye appeal tops $28K:Because the Bison on Mound coin was a first year of issue with a high mintage, examples were kept in large quantities. So why did this one top $28,000?

1935-S 'Buffalo nickel''Whoa, the colors!' on this 1935-S 'Buffalo nickel' that topped $11,000: This 1935-S Indian Head 5-cent piece, the sole piece graded MS-67+ by PCGS, is from a large mintage of more than 10 million coins.


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