The 1913 Liberty Head nickel is an American five-cent piece which was produced in extremely limited quantities unauthorized by the United States Mint, making it one of the best-known and most coveted rarities in American numismatics. In 1972, one specimen of the five cent coin became the first coin to sell for over US$100,000; in 1996, another specimen became the first to sell for over US$1 million. In 2003, one coin was sold for under three million dollars. In 2010, the Olsen piece sold for US$3.7 million at a public auction.
Only five examples are known to exist: two in museums and three in private collections.
V-Nickels dated pre-1897 can command significant premiums and many are worth $4 to $5 a piece. A rare 1885 V-Nickel, however, may garner a premium of nearly $400. The Value of V-Nickels-What Dealers Pay. The value of a V-Nickel depends on its minting year, relative scarcity and other factors. The V-nickel design was replaced by the Buffalo Head nickel in 1913. It is a numismatic mystery: why do five specimens of V-Nickels dated 1913 exist? Though the many possible explanations give numismatists fodder for thought and conversation, the truth remains a mystery. The reverse includes a large Roman numeral “V”, which was originally the only indication of the value of the coin. Part of the way through the first year of issue, the word “CENTS” was added. Remaining inscriptions are “United States of America” and “E Pluribus Unum”. For the Liberty Nickel series. Find the current Jefferson Nickel values by year, coin varieties, and specific grade.
The Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel was introduced in February 1913, replacing the Liberty Head design. These were the first official strikings of nickels in 1913, since the United States Mint's official records list no Liberty Head nickels produced in that year. However, in 1920, the numismatic community learned of five Liberty Head nickels dated 1913, all owned by Samuel Brown, a numismatist who attended the American Numismatic Association's annual convention in 1920 and displayed the coins there. He had previously placed an advertisement in the December 1919 issue of The Numismatist soliciting information on these coins, offering to pay US $500 for each and ostensibly purchasing them as a result. However, Brown had been a Mint employee in 1913, and many numismatic historians have concluded that he may have struck them himself (or had them struck) and taken them from the Mint. If true, this was not a unique occurrence; such clandestine strikes were quite common in the 19th century, with the Class II and III 1804 silver dollars perhaps the best-known instance. Other numismatic authorities, such as Q. David Bowers, have questioned this scenario, and pointed out that there are several methods by which the coins could have been legitimately produced; e.g., they may have been lawfully issued by the Mint's Medal Department 'for cabinet purposes,' or could have been struck as trial pieces in late 1912 to test the following year's new coinage dies. Bowers, however, did not entirely discount the private minting theory.
In January 1924, Samuel Brown sold all five 1913 Liberty Head nickels. The intact lot passed through the hands of several other coin dealers before finally being purchased by Colonel E. H. R. Green (son of the famous Gilded Age investor and miserHetty Green), who kept them in his collection until his death in 1936. His estate was then auctioned off, and the five 1913 Liberty Head nickels were purchased by two dealers, Eric P. Newman and B. G. Johnson, who broke up the set for the first time.
Of the five 1913 Liberty Head nickels, two have proof surfaces and the other three were produced with standard striking techniques. The Eliasberg specimen is the finest known 1913 Liberty Head nickel, with a grade of 66 from various professional grading services, including PCGS and NGC.
This coin was purchased from Newman and Johnson by the Numismatic Gallery, a coin dealership that then sold it to famed collector Louis Eliasberg. It remained in Eliasberg's comprehensive collection until after his death. In May 1996, it was sold at an auction conducted by Bowers and Merena to rarities dealer Jay Parrino for US$1,485,000: the highest price for a coin up until that point. When it was auctioned again in March 2001, the price climbed to US$1,840,000. In May 2005, Legend Numismatics purchased the Eliasberg specimen for US$4,150,000. In 2007, it was sold to an unnamed collector in California for US$5 million.
While the Eliasberg specimen is the best preserved of the five coins, the Olsen specimen is almost certainly the most famous. It has been graded Proof-64 by both PCGS and NGC, and was featured on an episode of Hawaii Five-O ('The $100,000 Nickel,' aired on December 11, 1973). It was also briefly owned by King Farouk of Egypt.
When Newman and Johnson broke up the set of five coins, the Olsen specimen was sold first to James Kelly and then to Fred Olsen. The latter sold the coin to Farouk, but his name has remained attached to it in numismatic circles ever since. In 1972, it was sold to World Wide Coin Investments for US$100,000, thus inspiring its title appearance in Hawaii Five-O the following year. Its price doubled to US$200,000 when it was resold to Superior Galleries in 1978. It has been resold on several occasions since then, fetching US$3,000,000 in a private treaty sale from California collector Dwight Manley to Bruce Morelan and Legend Numismatics in June 2004. Legend sold the coin to Blanchard and Co. in 2005, who sold it to a private collector, and more recently for US$3,737,500 by Heritage Auctions in January 2010. The latest owner's name has not been disclosed.
The Norweb specimen is one of two 1913 Liberty Head nickels that have ended up in museums. It is on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution.
Newman and Johnson sold the Norweb specimen to F.C.C. Boyd, who then resold it to the Numismatic Gallery (which handled several of the coins over the years). In 1949, it was purchased by King Farouk to replace the Olsen specimen, which he had sold. It remained in Farouk's collection until he was deposed by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1952. Two years after that, Farouk's possessions were all auctioned off by the new regime. The Numismatic Gallery regained possession of it, and sold it this time to Ambassador Henry Norweb and his wife. The Norwebs donated the specimen to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Numismatic Collection- where it remains - in 1978 to commemorate their sixtieth wedding anniversary.
The Walton specimen is the most elusive of the five 1913 Liberty Head nickels; for over 40 years, its whereabouts were unknown and it was believed to have been lost. George O. Walton, for whom the specimen is named, purchased it from Newman and Johnson in 1945 for approximately US$3,750, equal to $53,256 today. On March 9, 1962, Walton died in a car crash en route to a coin show. He had promised the show's promoters that he would exhibit the 1913 Liberty Head nickel there, so it was assumed to have been among the coins in his possession at the time of the fatal crash. US$250,000 worth of coins were recovered from the crash site, including the 1913 Liberty nickel, which was protected in a custom-made holder. When Walton's heirs put his coins up for public auction in 1963, the nickel was returned to them, because the auction house had mistakenly determined the coin to be not genuine. As a result, the coin remained in the family's possession, being stored in a strongbox on the floor of a closet in his sister's home, for over 40 years. In July 2003, the American Numismatic Association arranged to display the four specimens whose whereabouts were known. As a publicity stunt, public relations consultant and former ANA governor Donn Pearlman launched a nationwide hunt for the missing fifth specimen. He arranged with Bowers and Merena auction house (at the time a division of Collectors Universe, Inc.) to offer a minimum US$1 million to purchase the coin, or as a guarantee for consigning it to one of their public auctions. In addition, a US$10,000 reward was offered simply for letting representatives of Bowers and Merena be the first to see the missing fifth specimen when found. After learning about the reward, the Walton heirs brought their coin to the ANA convention in Baltimore, where expert authenticators from Professional Coin Grading Service examined it at length and compared it to the other four known specimens. At that time, it was determined that the Walton specimen was genuine. The coin was sold at auction by the heirs in April 2013 for US$3,172,500, significantly above an estimated value of US$2,500,000.The auction buyers, Jeff Garrett, (former ANA President) and owner of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries in Lexington, Kentucky, partnering with esteemed numismatist, Larry Lee, put it on display at Lee’s store, Coin & Bullion Reserves in Panama City, Florida. It stayed there, on display for five years, viewed by legions of visitors. In June 2018 Garrett and Lee sold the 1913 Walton, in a private treaty sale reported to be between $3 and $4 million, to Martin Burns, a lawyer from Las Vegas and his brother Ron Firman, of Miami. PCGS reauthenticated the coin and sealed it a current PCGS Secure slab (holder). The brothers then arranged for the Walton specimen to come back to the ANA museum, where it has been since July 2018. 
Held by the American Numismatic Association's Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the McDermott specimen has the distinction of being the only 1913 Liberty Head nickel with circulation marks on it. Johnson and Newman sold it to James Kelly, who then sold it to J.V. McDermott, whose name ended up as part of the coin's pedigree. He often carried the coin around with him, showing it off to bar patrons and boasting of its extraordinary rarity and value. The coin lost some of its original mint luster in the process, and McDermott eventually protected it in a holder to prevent further wear. After his death, the coin was then sold at auction to Aubrey Bebee in 1967 for US$46,000, who along with his wife donated it to the ANA in 1989, where it is exhibited in the Money Museum.
- Paul Montgomery, Mark Borckardt, and Ray Knight. Million Dollar Nickels: Mysteries of the 1913 Liberty Head Nickels Revealed. Irvine, CA: Zyrus Press, 2005
- Michael Wescott with Kendall Keck. The United States Nickel Five-Cent Piece: History and Date-by-Date Analysis. Wolfeboro, NH: Bowers and Merena, 1991
- ^ abGarrett, J.; Guth, R. (2003). 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. Atlanta, GA: H.E. Harris & Co. pp. 10–11. ISBN978-0-7948-1665-0.
- ^ ab'1913 Liberty Head Nickel NGC Graded PR66 (Finest Known) – Original Catalog Description'. CoinResource.com. Superior Galleries, Inc. 2001. Archived from the original on 2006-02-06. Retrieved 4 February 2006.
- ^'1913 Liberty Nickel'. ANA Money Museum. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 17 April 2007.
- ^ abcBowers, Q. David (1996). 'Pedigree of Five Known 1913 Liberty Nickels'. Professional Coin Grading Service. Retrieved 6 February 2006.[permanent dead link]
- ^Bowers, Q. David. 'The Story of the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel: A History and Appreciation'(PDF). The Finest Known 1913 Liberty Head Nickel. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
- ^ ab'1913 Liberty Head Five Cents'. CoinFacts.com. Collectors Universe, Inc. 1999. Archived from the original on 22 February 2006. Retrieved 4 February 2006.
- ^'1913 Liberty Head nickel sells for $4M'. USA Today. Associated Press. 2005-06-02. Retrieved 17 April 2007.
- ^'Eliasberg 1913 Liberty Head Nickel Sold for Record $5 Million'. US Rare Coin Investments. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
- ^'Hawaii Five-O: The $100,000 Nickel'. TV.com. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved 6 February 2006.
- ^'Olsen-Hawn 1913 Liberty Nickel Sells for $3,737,500 : Coin Collecting News'. Coinlink.com. 2010-01-08. Archived from the original on 2012-01-06. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
- ^Mark Borckardt. 'Olsen 1913 Liberty Nickel Auction Description with Photos and Video'. Heritage Auction Galleries. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
- ^Bowers, Q. David (2003-06-20). 'The Incredible 1913 Liberty Head Nickel!'. Scoop!. Gemstone Publishing, Inc. Retrieved 7 February 2006.
- ^Montgomery, 2005, pp. 147, 148
- ^'George O. Walton, Collector (1907–1962)'. ANA Money Museum. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 17 April 2007.
- ^Montgomery, Paul; Borckhardt, Mark and Knight Ray. Million Dollar Nickels. Irvine, California, Zyruss Press, Inc. 2005, p. 220. ISBN0-9742371-8-3.
- ^Deisher, Beth (2003-07-30). 'Found! – Missing 1913 Liberty Head 5¢ coin in closet for 40 years'. Coin World. Amos Press, Inc. Archived from the original on 2006-10-22. Retrieved 7 February 2006.
- ^Rare 1913 nickel fetches more than $3.1M at auction
- ^Deisher, Beth (July 2003). 'Liberty Head Legends: The famed 1913 Liberty Head Nickels and the whereabouts of the second specimen are making news – again'. www.money.org/the-numismatist - The Numismatist. American Numismatic Association. Archived from the original(PDF) on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2006.
Coin Values Moving with Precious Metals: Up-Dated 2/8/2021: Gold $1813 Silver $26.90
Minted 1913 to 1938; buffalo nickel value is found by determining date mintmark condition. A heavily worn coin with a readable date is worth well above face value. A very popular series with collectors, each coin is evaluated closely to identify its full potential. Follow the step by step process below and find where your coin is listed on the value chart.
Steps Leading to Value:
- Step 1: Date and Mintmark Combination - Identify date and locate mintmarks to find listing on the value chart.
- Step 2: Grading Condition - Using Video, Images, and Descriptions judge the condition and determine grade.
- Step 3: Special Qualities - Varieties are important to collectors, compare your coin to images to recognize the important qualities to these old buffalo nickels.
The value table shows the importance of the key elements to identify.
|Buffalo Nickel Value|
1913 to 1938
|Condition of Coin|
|Buffalo Nickel Value Updated||2021|
|1913 Type 1||$7.06||$10||$16||$24|
|1913 D Type 1||$11||$15||$26||$44|
|1913 S Type 1||$31||$38||$51||$86|
|1913 Type 2||$7.37||$13||$15||$23|
|1913 D Type 2||$94||$116||$153||$167|
|1913 S Type 2||$163||$234||$259||$466|
|1937 D 3 Leg||$232||$270||$428||$1,107|
The above are wholesale coin values. Computed from dealer's price lists with various mark-up factors figured in. They reflect closely the value you would expect to receive when selling.
Variations in value do occur subject to subtle grading points, collector demands and dealer needs.
Step 1: Date and Mintmark Combination is Identified
Three different mints struck Buffalo nickels throughout the span of the series; 1913 to 1938. In most years all three mints produced nickels. The key is to identify both the date and mint of each coin. Mintmarks on the Denver and San Francisco issues identify the mint. Philadelphia did not place a mintmark on their production.
Collectors typically assemble sets of Buffalo nickels including each mint variety of each year. Availability and scarcity of a year and mintmark combination drives values above minimum base value.
'S' Mintmark on Reverse: San Francisco Mint Struck the Coin
Low mintage numbers of San Francisco Buffalo nickels place most dates as the scarce issue for the year. A total of 118 million were struck with all years combined, lowest of the mints. Many of the key and high value nickels are the San Francisco coins.
San Francisco mint placed a 'S' mintmark on the reverse just under Five Cents. A date with all numerals clearly showing plus the 'S' mintmark is a premium value nickel.
'D' Mintmark on Reverse: Denver Mint Struck the Coin
The Denver Mint in Colorado also contributed to the numbers of Buffalo nickels minted. Striking just over 225 million coins, Denver issues are another exciting find. Early year examples 1913 to 1926 are all high premium coins.
Denver placed a 'D' mintmark on the reverse to identify its production. A surprising premium coin is the last year of the Buffalo nickel 1938, all were minted at Denver. Last of series plus Denver only adds to this coin's popularity and demand from collectors.
No Mintmark on Reverse: Philadelphia Mint Struck the Coin
Leading in numbers of Buffalo nickels struck is the Philadelphia mint. Throughout the years the main mint placed over 900 million nickels into circulation. Most of the old nickels found today are the Philadelphia issue. Many collectors find these coins appealing. Affordable in higher condition, a date run is a popular collection, creating a steady demand for all Buffalo nickels.
Looking on the reverse, just under Five Cents; if without a mintmark, the coin was struck at Philadelphia. The Philadelphia mint did not place mintmarks on Buffalo nickels.
Step 2: Grading Condition of Buffalo Nickels
Coin collecting remains a popular hobby today. A collection of Buffalo nickels presents an engaging pursuit for both young and advanced collectors. Your coins have the potential to add to a collection.
Condition Narrows Value Range
Judging condition directly links to how much your coin is worth. Rare dates and mintmark combinations are a start. Grading narrows into a close value range.
Using a single light source and magnification, first inspect for a clear date. The date area is high in relief on Buffalo nickels and quickly wears. A bold date showing places your coin in the upper grade ranges. Tilting the coin under the light at different angles helps find subtle details. Compare to the grading images, finding the grade closest to the condition of your coin.
Mint State Grade: Buffalo Nickel
Obverse: Features Identifying Mint State Grade: A strong demand is found in old nickels meeting the Mint State grade standards. No wear to the surface is the defining factor. A few points on the coin are checked to confirm this top condition.
Just under the Indian's eye his cheek is one of the high points to design. Any wear shows as a color change to the metal and a smoothing of texture. Luster imparted during minting is a fine grain surface easily removed when worn. Judge the surface of the cheek to match surrounding areas.
View the hair along the parting line from his forehead to bow holding the feathers. High and low areas representing lines of hair remain without any smoothing. Expanding upward and below the part line all surfaces are similar in texture.
Reverse: Features Identifying Mint State Grade: High areas of the buffalo's fur are inspected to detect any wear.
Along the upper shoulder where the fur meets the back remains with a luster indicating a mint state coin.
In the hip area, any wear causes a flattening of the profile and smoothness to the metal.
Look close at the lower edge of the ground, just above 'Five Cents'. The ground surface and a defining lower line remains without flattening.
Extremely Fine Grade: Buffalo Nickel
Obverse: Features Identifying Extremely Fine Grade: A bold date, fully raised is a defining feature of the Extremely Fine grade.
All digits of the date are clear and well raised. Last digit of date is fully separated from the trailing end of the tie holding the braid of hair.
A small area of flatness is confined to just under the eye. A contour remains with no flat area connecting with the hair left of the eye.
Strands of hair remain bold throughout, blending with the feather is minimal.
Reverse: Features Identifying Extremely Fine Grade: Overall most of the fur details remain. Light wear has flattened only the upper areas of fur.
A distinct line remains separating the buffalo's back with the line of fur along the upper leg to the upper back.
Contour remains on the hip with a noticeable raise area defined. Flatness is limited to the forward area of leg.
The majority of the buffalo's horn is visible. On well struck examples the horn is complete with the tip well defined. Helping define the grade is areas of flatness are small and disconnected.
Fine Grade: Buffalo Nickel
Obverse: Features Identifying the Fine Grade: Heavy wear has begun to create large areas of flatness to the surface, placing the coin in Fine grade.
First to judge is the date. Although worn to a shallow profile, all digits must show. Each number is complete. The 'one' is often very weak at the bottom, but is separate from the 'nine'.
The long feather at the back of the head is only just beginning to merge with the Indian's hair. A line of separation is evident but faint.
Letters of 'Liberty' are faint. The majority of the tops of the letters are very weak and beginning to touch the rim. A complete separation indicates a strong Fine grade.
Reverse: Features Identifying the Fine Grade: Evidence of a horn remaining helps identify the Fine grade. The upper half of the horn is missing, however, a strong base to the horn is visible.
A defining line remains indicating the fur from the back of the buffalo.
Flattened areas of the head, shoulder, stomach, and hip are evident but no areas are connecting. A wide space remains identifying each design feature.
Good Grade: Buffalo Nickel
Obverse: Features Identifying the Good Grade: A date is readable but very faint. Defining the grade is the first digits '19' are readable. The '19' are merging with each other but enough remains to identify. Last two digits of date are better defined. A small raised area of all digits is always visible.
Hair detail is missing throughout the center portion above the braid. Flatness extends upward to the part in the hair.
'Liberty' is readable but fully connected with the rim. Often upper part of letters are very faint to missing.
Reverse: Features Identifying the Good Grade: A once fully profiled buffalo is now flat.
The buffalo's head is missing the majority of his horn; a small base is sometimes seen. All fur detail to the head is one flat area.
A small connection of the buffalo's head to the rim is noted.
Only a slight definition of contour remains separating head, shoulder, stomach, and hip. Wide areas of flatness are now larger than contoured areas. Overall a buffalo nickel in Good grade remains with a bold outline of both the Indian and buffalo.
How to Video: Grading Buffalo Nickels
Today, dealers and collectors are searching to find, and have the funds to buy well preserved coins. Your buffalo nickel value increases dramatically the better condition of your coin. A step by step video highlights the elements to the grades.
Step 3: Special Qualities Enhancing Value
The beginning of the Buffalo nickel series saw the year 1913 struck with two different reverse varieties.
First variety: 1913 Type I portrays the buffalo standing on a mounded surface. Lettering of 'Five Cents' is placed bold in the design across the mound. This raised lettering was determined unsatisfactory, quick to wear and loose the statement of denomination.
Second variety: 1913 to 1938 Type II A modification to the design recessed the lettering of 'Five Cents' within the mound below the buffalo. A distinct change protecting both the denomination and mintmark. This Type II reverse design continued until the end of the series in 1938. Both Type I and Type II nickels were minted at all three mints, Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco and valued individually.
James Earle Fraser designed both the Indian obverse and Buffalo reverse. His initial 'F' is found under the date of all Buffalo nickels.
Below Collector Quality
Discoloration has taken over the 'look' of this nickel. Unfortunately, an abrasive was used to remove some of the color to brighten the surface. The resulting unnatural appearance has lowered value. A collector passes on these damaged coins. Damage to the surface and cleaning has removed collectability.
V Nickels For Sale
Detecting a Faded Date Buffalo Nickel
Buffalo nickels are a high relief design. Most elements sit well above the field of the coin, including the date. The shoulder of the Indian is raised and date is on top, placing it as one of the highest areas on the surface. Closest protection to the date is the rim below and knot in hair braid above. Many surviving nickels have partial dates. The '19' of the date often wears away first leaving just faint impressions of the last two digits.
Using a single, bright light and adjusting the angle of the coin to the light helps identify a faint digit or two. Magnification is almost a must to use. Many times, the decade digit is just visible, a difference in the '1' '2' '3' is recognizable. A faint year digit is usually the difficult one to see. Slowly tilt the angle to the light to bring out subtle detail. If identity of date is uncertain the coin is falling below the Good grade and value.
US Mint. 1938 US Mint Annual Report https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/514142
US Mint. Catalogue of Coins of the United States https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/554591
Coin Values CoinStudy Articles
V Nickels Sale
Date by Date
In Depth Buffalo Nickel Value
1913 to 1938
Buffalo Nickels are very popular. The price of lower grade coins makes it easy for younger collectors to start and enjoy collecting the series. Cops and donuts slot machine for sale.
They are attractive in their design and price, giving them a value boost. Return and keep pace with your rising buffalo nickel value.
A step by step method is used to discover old coin values. Beginning with identifying important dates and mintmarks. Next comparing your coin to images to judge and determine its condition and recognize its 'grade'. Value charts narrow how much coins are worth.
The index page helps identify the Shield, Liberty, Buffalo, Jefferson and Three Cent Nickels. Discover the value of your old nickels by matching your coins to the grading images and value charts.
Visit the in-depth Buffalo nickel grading video, combined with enlarged images and detailed descriptions describing the differences between grades. Dates and mintmarks are only part of old nickel value. Follow the steps to grading Buffalo nickels and it leads to how much your coins are worth… accurately.
Videos, close-up images and descriptions, give insight into the details to accurately grade the condition of your old nickels. Individual series covered: Shield, Liberty, Buffalo, and Jefferson nickels. Judge carefully to find the true potential value.
Do you have other denominations?
A step by step method combined with the coin value online guide identifies how to value a coin collection. Discover how much your box of old coins is worth.
Selling coins for the highest price is achieved with planning. Research and organize well, value your coins accurately, and then finding and selling to the right buyer equals excellent results.
★Coin Values Discovery finds Buffalo Nickel Value and..
All old US coin values. Follow an image index to identify all US coin series, from Cents to Gold. Value charts, grading images and a step by step procedure uncovers how much your box of old coins is worth.