Buffalo Nickel Overview
Made to honor the Native Americans that inhabited the United States and the contributions that they made to America, the Buffalo Nickel became the most popular nickel of the time. Today, the Buffalo Nickel still enjoys popularity among collectors and can be found in almost all collections.
James Fraser was the Buffalo Nickel designer that used three different models for the Native American bust. Fraser also used the famous bison “Black Diamond,” which was a crowd favorite at the Central Park Zoo, as his model. It was not until 1913 that the Buffalo Nickel was first put into production when several minting issues were encountered.
On the obverse of the Buffalo Nickel, a bust of a Native American with feathers in his hair can be seen facing right. The date of mintage as well as Fraser's initial can be found on the Native American’s shoulder. “LIBERTY” is just to the right of the bust near the rim.
The reverse is just a simple design that focuses on the American Bison, which is centered. “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM” can be found directly above the bison. The denomination “FIVE CENTS” is found just below the ground that the bison is standing on.
If you would like to know more about the Buffalo Nickel or other rare and collectible nickels, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Nickels.
History of the 1923 Buffalo Nickel
During 1923, no Buffalo Nickels were minted at the Denver mint; instead, the coins were minted only in Philadelphia that year.
Mint reports show that 35,715,000 examples of the Buffalo Nickel were minted in 1923 at the Philadelphia mint. This was a slightly higher mintage figure than most other years because of the uptick in the economy at the time.
Because of this high mintage, many higher grade examples still exist, which has kept the prices of high-grade 1923 Buffalo Nickels down. Strike quality was also average to above average for 1923 as well.
Like all other Buffalo Nickels, the 1930 Buffalo Nickel was composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel. Each has a diameter of 21.2 mm and weighs 5.0 grams. No reeding is present on the edges.
Two-Feather 1923 Buffalo Nickel
A curious error occurred during the minting process of the 1923 Buffalo Nickel that resulted in the disappearance of one of the three feathers that the Native American has in his hair.
Although the Buffalo Nickel series was plagued with minting errors, numismatis cannot accurately determine how or why this error occurred. The general consensus is that overpolishing resulted in the most shallow of the feathers to have been worn away.
When looking for this variety, collectors should focus on the small shallow feather located just to the right of the largest feather. A very small corner should be raised on a regular strike, whereas on a two-feather variety it should not be present.
Because of how small the error is, few collectors actively search out this variety. There is a small premium placed on 1923 Buffalo Nickels that display this type of error.
From the information that can be gathered, the two-feather error is a semi-rare error that has varying degrees of severity. Weak two-feathers or 2 ½-feather varieties command little to no premium.
This variety is recognized by both PCGS and NGC and can be attributed and graded if one desires. Because there is only a small following for this type of error, professional authentication may not be needed.
Valuing the 1923 Buffalo Nickel
Most 1923 Buffalo nickels will be in a low grade between Good 4 and Fine 12. Prices in these grades are around $2-$3. Very Fine 20 sees a price increase to $6, and Extremely Fine sees a jump to $13.
Uncirculated examples command much higher prices because of collector demand. MS-60 retails for $60 and a significant price increase can be seen at MS-63 with a value of $175. Few coins have made MS-65 grades, but those that have command a $560 price tag.
Two-feather varieties of 1923 Buffalo nickels have a range of prices that seem to fall around $100 in the lowest grade. Higher grades have prices that are significantly higher than $100.
High-grade 1923 Buffalo nickels are still in demand and may continue to rise in price. Even lower grade examples have seen recent price increases. Be sure to look for the two-feather variety on any 1923 Buffalo Nickels as they can increase their value significantly.