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The Scarce 1914-D Buffalo Nickel

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1914-D Buffalo Nickel. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

The Buffalo Nickel isn’t generally considered a numismatically intimidating series. It’s reasonably approachable enough for collectors of even lesser means to have a real shot at completing a set – especially when omitting rare varieties like the 1918-D 8 Over 7 or 1937-D 3 Legs. But there are some tough regular-issue coins in the series that a completist set collector on a tight budget simply cannot afford to miss, including the 1914-D Buffalo Nickel. This is an interesting coin, born during the early days of the series designed by James E. Fraser that was born in 1913 during the Renaissance of American Coinage and continued until 1938.

A great many of the mintmarked U.S. coins from branch mints during the second decade of the 20th century rank as rare. Consider the 1914-D Lincoln Cent, the 1916-D Mercury Dime, and 1913-S Barber Quarter, all of which are key dates for their respective series. Small mintages at the time can be chalked up to a recession in the mid teens just prior to U.S. engagement in World War I. Scarcity of these coins is only further compounded by the fact that the bulk of collectors didn’t fancy pursuing mintmarked coins at that time – they were generally more concerned with obtaining specimens from the “mother mint” in Philadelphia.

Mintage figures for the 1914-D Buffalo Nickel aren’t all that dismal, with records showing the Denver Mint pumping out 3,912,000 Buffalo Nickels in 1914. But few were saved in decent condition. Collectors must not forget the “high” (or proud) position of the date on Buffalo Nickels, which were prone to losing all vestiges of their date due to wear frequently obliterating the numerals. Exactly how many readily identifiable 1914-D Buffalo Nickels remain is uncertain, but PCGS estimates just 8,000 across all grades and only 1,600 in grades of MS60 or better. With survival estimates like that, it’s justifiable that prices for even well-worn specimens of the 1914-D Buffalo Nickel are robust.

In a grade of G4, the 1914-D Buffalo Nickel trades for around $90, with prices lurching upward to $140 in F12. Specimens in the grade of XF40 will set collectors back by approximately $240, and the issue fetches a solid $500 in MS60. From there, prices begin ascending even more quickly as one traipses up the grading scale to MS65, where Gems regularly trade for $1,500. Not even a dozen examples have been encapsulated by PCGS in MS67, the grade earned by the record-smashing specimen that was graded PCGS MS67 and realized $32,775 in a 2005 auction.

Buffalo Nickels (1913-1938)

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