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HomeUS CoinsThe Curiosity of the 2005-D Speared Bison Nickel

The Curiosity of the 2005-D Speared Bison Nickel

This closeup of the reverse of the 2005-D Speared Bison Nickel shows where a major die break caused a raised line that numismatists have dubbed the Speared Bison. Courtesy of PCGS.
This closeup of the reverse of the 2005-D Speared Bison Nickel shows where a major die break caused a raised line that numismatists have dubbed the Speared Bison. Courtesy of PCGS.

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for PCGS ……
One curiosity to arise from the modern output of the Jefferson Nickel series is the 2005-D Speared Bison variety. The oddity, quite jarring to some, appears on some of the 2005 Westward Journey Nickels bearing the American bison reverse, a design reminiscent of James Earle Fraser’s nearly identical motif on the reverse of the classic Buffalo Nickel that was in production from 1913 through 1938. Some outside of hobby circles might think the spike-like aberration may have been some kind of prank played by United States Mint designers – certainly it’s easy to think of the spike as something someone would’ve placed as some type of practical joke.

But it’s the result of nothing more than a severe die break – wear and tear on the die from physical stress and continual operation. Die breaks, a common type of die damage, have led to some of the most drastic die varieties known. From tiny bumps to full-blown shatter marks, die gouges and die breaks are relatively common occurrences that have manifested an amazing array of collectible oddities.

Among them is the 2005-D Speared Bison Nickel, a name deriving from what appears to be a spear running through the back of the bison. Thankfully, no animals were harmed in the striking of this coin. And even more graciously, collectors were gifted with a tremendous variety that has become one of the quirkiest collectibles of the Jefferson Nickel series. Soon after their discovery, Speared Bison Nickels were selling for upward of $100 USD a piece.

Despite the passage of many years, the 2005-D Speared Bison Nickel has remained popular with collectors and is still relatively scarce. The Speared Bison is considered a major variety and is included in various PCGS Registry Sets that accommodate the Jefferson Nickel. Even moderately circulated specimens trade for north of $50, with specimens graded MS63 taking around $175. Due to the overall poor quality of the planchets used to strike these coins, an astoundingly small number of 2005-D Speared Bisons are known in the range of MS65 or better, where prices top $400. No examples are known above MS66.

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