By CoinWeek ….
On Sunday evening, February 17, a Type I 1913-D Buffalo Nickel, graded MS-67+ by PCGS and approved by CAC, sold for $4,850 USD ($5,456.25 including buyer’s premium).
While the 1913-D is a fairly common coin (thanks to the public’s enthusiasm for first-year-of-issue coins and the “hoarding” that goes along with it), population reports from PCGS and NGC show that it becomes a condition rarity at MS-67 and above. There are 11 grading events reported at PCGS for 67+, with two finer at MS-68. NGC reports four nickels graded 67+, with only one finer at 68. For comparison, the populations of MS-66 examples at PCGS and NGC are 466 and 174, respectively.
As far as prices go for a PCGS MS-67+, the highest auction result on record is from the August 2017 Heritage Auctions ANA sale in Denver, where a specimen garnered a stunning $10,281.25 (including buyer’s premium). More recently, at a Heritage U.S. Coins Signature Auction in November 2018, a 1913-D sold for $5,040. In December 2016, an example from the Angel Dee Collection sold at a Legend Rare Coin Auctions sale for $8,812.50, including buyer’s fee.
This seems to demonstrate that Sunday’s price at GreatCollections is something of a bargain in the recent market for PCGS-certified specimens of this issue. An NGC-certified 1913-D Type I sold for $3,360 in June of 2018 as part of the Heritage Auctions Long Beach sale.
The Type I Buffalo Nickel (1913)
Like was mentioned above, the 1913-D Buffalo nickel is a first-year issue. The United States Mint struck almost 31 million business strike coins at Philadelphia, about two million at San Francisco, and over five million pieces at the Denver Mint. And like previously mentioned, the 1913-D is a condition rarity in high Mint State; but what this belies is the fact that most of the Denver regular issue output came out much sharper than their Philadelphia counterparts, on the whole.
There are two types of Buffalo nickel, but both feature the same overall design. Created by sculptor James Earle Fraser to be uniquely American, the Buffalo (or Indian Head) nickel features a right-facing effigy of a Native American chieftain on the obverse and a male American bison on the reverse. According to Fraser, the portrait on the obverse is a composite of multiple real-life models, with two Native chiefs–Iron Tail of the Oglala Lakota, and Two Moons of the Cheyenne–whose names are known to numismatists in the present. The model for the bison on the reverse is reputed to have been Black Diamond, a buffalo residing at a zoo in Central Park in New York City.
The artwork on both sides of the coin is accompanied by interesting legends and controversies, but none of them were any reason to alter the design enough to warrant the designation of Type I and Type II Buffalo nickels. Instead, the problem lay with the life expectancy of the dies used to produce the new coins.
Charles Barber, Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint and whose Liberty Head design the Buffalo nickel was now replacing, reported that the Mint was having difficulty maintaining the supply of working dies to the three branch mints due to wear from striking the new nickels. Additionally, it was apparent that the date and denomination on the coin were wearing at a higher rate than the Mint and the Treasury Department found acceptable. Barber requested that Fraser make adjustments to his design in order to improve die life, and Fraser complied. Type II Buffalo nickels feature a larger version of the denomination FIVE CENTS and a straight line for the bison to stand on instead of a grassy hill. The new version of the coin was in production until the series was itself replaced by the Jefferson nickel in 1938.
The Type I, therefore, is a first-year-of-issue, one-year type.