By Everett Millman – Gainesville Coins ……
It’s quite common to find Buffalo nickels that are dateless—missing the four digits that indicate the year the coin was made. We’ll examine why this happened and help you determine how much no-date Buffalo nickels are worth.
Why Some Buffalo Nickels Have No Date
As amusing as it is to imagine, the United States Mint didn’t simply forget to put the date on certain Buffalo nickels. All dateless Buffalo nickels did, at one time, have a visible date on the coin. These no-date coins were the result of circulation and excessive handling. The numbers wore away over time.
Although wear is the immediate cause of a coin missing the date, the problem began with a flaw in the Mint’s design. More accurately, the failing was in U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber’s less-than-enthusiastic execution of sculptor James Earle Fraser’s design. Barber is thought to have been bitter that his own nickel design in use since 1883 was being replaced.
The location of the date on the coin also contributed to the issue. Because it was placed near one of the higher relief portions of the design, the numerals of the date were some of the first features to wear away through their lifetime of use.
Moreover, the relatively low value of nickels ensured that these coins circulated heavily. The widespread use of nickels in commerce meant that the features on these coins wore away more quickly than larger denominations like half dollars and silver dollars.
How to Tell What Year Your Buffalo Nickel Is
The year-date will always be located on the shoulder of the Indian head, just above the miniature “F” inscription for designer James Earle Fraser.
Partial dates are also common. This is where much if not all of the date is missing, but the final two digits can be made out, and thus the date of the issue is easily determined. Buffalo nickels were minted from 1913 to 1938, so the first two digits will always be “19”.
Remember, dateless Buffalo nickels all actually have an underlying date. Revealing that date is the tricky part.
Many coin dealers and collectors will apply a small amount of acid to the portion of the coin where the date once was. The type of acid used is usually ferric chloride, often sold under the brand Nic-a-Date. This process should create enough contrast with the date inscription so that the numbers can be determined.
The use of acid does damage the coin, of course. Over the years, the process may have to be done more than once. This leaves an increasingly ugly discoloration on the area of the year-date.
Find the Value of Your No Date Buffalo Nickel
So how much are no date Buffalo nickels worth? At a minimum, these coins trade for 20 cents or more. It’s not uncommon to see them sell for more than $1. Prices can go much higher if revealing the date yields a key date or variety.
Here’s a quick list of key date Buffalo nickels and their values:
Keep in mind that any dateless Buffalo nickel will be heavily worn. That means prices will generally be at the low end for the coin type.
Popularity of Buffalo Nickels Without a Date
There are only a small number of coin collectors who specialize in no-date Buffalo nickels, to be frank. Unlike true error coins, these dateless coins are not a special variety. They’re merely well-circulated.
Nonetheless, dateless Buffalo nickels are still collectible and worth something, even if they’re almost completely worn.
Both the United States Mint and private refineries have capitalized on the popularity of the famous Buffalo and Indian Head designs for modern precious metals products.
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About the Author
Everett Millman has been the head content writer and market analyst at Gainesville Coins since 2013. He has a background in History and is deeply interested in how gold and silver have historically fit into the financial system.
In addition to blogging, Everett’s work has been featured in Reuters, CNN Business, Bloomberg Radio, TD Ameritrade Network, CoinWeek, and has been referenced by the Washington Post.
I have some I am going to verify it.
Thank you for the information on coins
I have been collecting several different coins over the last 55 years, while in the Army and later after leaving and now at 71 years old I’m looking to maybe get all or most sold. I have some coins going back as far as 1670 English and some from China and Germany, I also have many very old American pennies and other coins like my 1909 pennies and others , so what and how can I get the most for some or old coins if anyone can direct me to the right place or person please contact me at my email address and please mention if any particular coins you maybe looking for, I have plenty that are not mentioned okay thank you all and good luck to everyone of us Coin seekers.
General sites like eBay, etc. or YouTube can be VERY unreliable because they don’t have a lot of quality control. You have to already be pretty knowledgeable to recognize what posts are good, versus misinformed or actually misleading. E.g. look at the dozens/100s of posts touting “rare 1851 Indian Head silver dollars” despite being a well-known fake.
Much better to use sites run by numismatic experts at agencies like ANA, PCGS, and others.
The nickel prior to the Buffalo nickel was minted starting 1883 not 1892 like this states.
Looks like the error’s been fixed.
I’m a stamp and coin collector and I’m interested in coin price.
I have some Buffalo nickels without the date I thought if the date was not there they didn’t value. Thanks just have to take them and get appraisal.
I have a Buffalo Nickel looks like the date is 1937 but the date is very faint
Do u know the appraisal price for this nickel? I have 1 the same as you.
Where can I find a place to check my coins. Have two buffalo nickels and two dimes
Francis Bent: I am a coin collector, doing so since 40 years. I have coins from many part of the world. I have a Buffalo nickel without the date, also some dimes. I am interested in coin price. Where can I check.