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1937 Buffalo Nickel Value

The 1937 Buffalo Nickel has a special place in coin collectors' hearts. Notably, it has earned a place in numismatic lore due to one of the most sought-after coin errors in history.

In this article, we'll explore the rich history, unique design elements, and enduring legacy of this beloved coin. Our aim is to delve into the key factors that influence the value of a 1937 Buffalo Nickel. We will offer price guidance and elucidate fundamental concepts that are crucial for evaluating this coin's worth.

Factors Affecting the 1937 Buffalo Nickel Value

Numerous factors affect a coin's value. The dynamic interaction among these elements ultimately determines the relative value of a numismatic piece of currency and deserves your attention.

The first one that comes to mind is the coin’s design.

Design

The Buffalo Nickel is the US five-cent coin and an iconic example of American coinage. Its metal composition is 75% Copper and 25% Nickel. The Buffalo Nickel debuted in 1913, replacing the old design, the Liberty Head Nickel.

1937 Buffalo Nickel Obverse

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Designed by sculptor James Earle Fraser, the portrait on the obverse is the result of a study of three Native American models. The indigenous man faces right. The word LIBERTY is inscribed on the outer rim, close to the man’s forehead. The date is placed on his shoulder.

1937 Buffalo Nickel Reverse

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The reverse, in turn, was styled from an American bison, which was commonly called a “buffalo.” The bison stands on a raised mound, with “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM” written above. The face value, “FIVE CENTS”, is placed on the mound below.

Type II

The first strike of the Buffalo Nickel in 1913 displayed the American bison on a raised mound with the face value right below. However, people quickly noticed that the inscription “FIVE CENTS” was easily worn out.

Reverse Type 1

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In the same year of 1913, the US Mint fixed the issue by redesigning the reverse. The update placed the “FIVE CENTS” in a recessed portion below a line of the ground. The recession would protect it from easily deteriorating.

Reverse Type 2

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The line would remain on the reverse design until the Buffalo Nickel was discontinued in 1938.

Historical Significance of Buffalo Nickels

The Buffalo Nickel was the first time an animal was represented in the nickels. Fraser´s design impressed the mint administrators back then and is still admired to this day.

The stunning depictions of a Native American, inspired by real Indigenous individuals, alongside the majestic bison, serve as powerful symbols and a tribute to the land's rich heritage. They stand as an iconic celebration of American history and a reminder of the ancestors who deserve recognition.

Check out our complete catalog of Buffalo Nickel key dates and values.

Rarity and Collectors’ Demand

A high or low mintage figure is also crucial for a coin's value. The mint facilities produce a different number of coins every year, making some years and mint marks scarcer than others.

The rarity, in turn, refers to how many specimens are available on the open market since this coin is not being produced anymore.

The 1937 Buffalo Nickels are not that rare in circulated grades but become harder to find in better conditions simply because of their high popularity and because numismatics always prioritize specimens that have survived time and still have their original luster.

That is why good-condition coins tend to be more expensive.

Coin's Condition

Coin Grading and Professional Coin Grading Service

Two very well-known professional grading services are PCGS and NGC. They are both respectful third-party grading services that offer an accurate assessment of a coin's authenticity and value. Coins sent to them will be appraised and graded under the Sheldon scale, which is the most famous and respected grading system for numismatic coins.

The scale rates a coin from 1 to 70, according to its condition, with grade 1 being very poor and grade 70 meaning a perfect state.

As one can imagine, the better the coin's conservation, the higher its price can be. Although grades alone do not guarantee a coin's price, they do validate its origin and authenticity.

Sheldon Coin Grading Scale

Circulated coins

Coins classified in circulated grades (from 1-50) tend to be in bad condition, not really appealing to collectors. Their condition will vary from bearing varied wear signs to almost completely unrecognizable and displaying virtually none of the original luster.

When a coin has a "broken reflection," it does not reflect the light properly; it means it has lost its lust (or most of it), so it is a circulated coin.

Uncirculated coins

Uncirculated coins are those that will show little to no wear signs (60-69) until those that are just perfect at sight, with all their original reflection or luster intact (70). The older the coin, the harder it is to find a specimen in an uncirculated condition.

Notable Variations and Errors

1937 Buffalo Nickel Regular Strike

The Philadelphia Mint produced 79,480,000 units of the 1937 Buffalo Nickel. These examples had no mint marks on them.

The auction record for a 1937 Buffalo Nickel Regular Strike is $18,213 in 2014 for an MS68 specimen.

1937-D Buffalo Nickel Regular Strike

1937-D Buffalo Nickel

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1937 Nickels were also produced in the Denver branch of the US Mint. 17,826,000 units were produced in this facility, with the “D” mint mark on the reverse, right below the face value inscription.

Therefore, the 1937-D Buffalo Nickel is scarcer than the ones produced in Philadelphia with no mint marks.

The auction record for this variation is $35,250 in 2015 for an MS68 specimen.

1937-S Buffalo Nickel Regular Strike

1937-S Buffalo Nickel

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An additional 6,635,000 Buffalo Nickels were produced in the San Francisco Mint in 1937. These coins had the characteristic “S” mint mark punched below the “FIVE CENTS” inscription on the reverse.

The auction record for a 1937-S Buffalo Nickel is $29,900 in 2007 for an MS68 specimen.

1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo Nickel

3-Legged Buffalo Nickel Coin Error

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This is the most famous error coin of the buffalo nickels series, the 1937–D "three-legged" nickel.

At the Denver mint, it is believed a pressman known as Mr. Young, in an attempt to remove marks from the die, over polished it and actually removed a portion of the bison's leg. Until the error was spotted, thousands of these coins were released and had become a popular collectible piece among coin collectors.

According to PCGS, this error coin is one of the most important coins of the 20th century. It is scarce in circulated condition, but in uncirculated condition, it can be considered very rare. And its rarity influences its price and popularity.

1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo Nickel

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In 2021, A three-legged nickel-graded MS66 was sold for $99,875.00 at Legend Rare Coin Auctions.

1937 Buffalo Proof Coin

1937 was the last year the US Mint struck a proof version of the Buffalo Nickel. Even though they are not that rare, these proof coins enjoy a high demand among collectors. Thus, this coin is valued at around $95,000 in pristine condition, according to the PCGS price guide.

1937 Buffalo Nickel Proof Coin

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As you can see from the image, the proof version has a brilliant finish, which is the result of a hand-polished planchet, highly polished dies, and struck at least twice. The result is a mirror-like finish.

Modern-proof coins are usually more expensive, and in this case, the coin's history and finishing add to its collectible value, which will reflect on its price.

The record bid for a 1937 Buffalo Nickel Proof Coin very nice coin above went for sale at $40,250 in 2012 at Heritage Auctions.

Price guide

The prices indicated below are an average value attributed by PCGS. The dynamics of a live auction or private sale can interfere with the final cost.

Type 2, "FIVE CENTS" Specimen Mint State

MS65

MS66

MS67

MS68

1937

$75

$95

$300

$10,500

1937-D

$105

$150

$750

$21,000

1937-D 3 Legs

$32,500

$50,000

$150,000

-

1937-D 3 Legs, FS-901

$25,000

$55,000

-

-

1937-S

$100

$200

$825

$18,000

 

Type 2, "FIVE CENTS" Proof

PR65

PR66

PR67

PR68

PR69

1937

$1,375

$1,650

$2,150

$8,000

$95,000

1937 Cameo

$6,500

$11,000

$15,750

-

-

Coins Values from PCGS 

Final Thoughts

In this article, we discussed what you should consider when accessing a 1937 Buffalo nickel price. We explained the coin's background, design history, and changes.

You learned that a coin's condition, rarity, and demand play vital roles in its price, and error coins are usually valuable because of their historical significance.

We hope to have helped you equip yourself with tools that can enable you to access fair prices and also to have contributed to your curiosity and enrichment of knowledge about the numismatic world.

FAQs

What is the error on the 1937 Buffalo Nickel?

The most famous error from the Buffalo nickel series is the "Three-legged" nickel: the bison on the reverse is missing its front leg. The error is a result of overpolishing of the coin die. Before the mistake was spotted, thousands of coins had already been struck and gone into circulation with other regular coins.

How rare is a 1937-D Buffalo Nickel?

The 1937 Buffalo Nickel with the "d" mint mark coin is very popular among coin collectors, which makes them expensive and hard to find. But in numbers, according to the PCGS population guide, there are 85 registered coins from this variety.

How do I know if my Buffalo Nickel is rare?

The most popular error coin is the three-legged buffalo nickel. It was an error caused by an employee overpolishing the die. Thousands of these were struck. Its reverse shows a bison without the front leg. Since this error can be counterfeited, the best way to ensure the coin's authenticity is to have it graded by a third-party grading service.

What to look for on a 1937 Buffalo Nickel?

The most popular and sought-after error coin from the 1937 Buffalo Nickel series is the three-legged nickel. Which is a result of excessive polishing on the coin die. Because of that, thousands of coins were struck, with the bison missing the front leg. The best way to ensure the coin is legit is to purchase it from reputable dealers or purchase a graded specimen.

How much is a 1937 Buffalo Nickel worth?

The three-legged error variety of the Buffalo Nickel is highly sought after by collectors and can command significant value, especially if preserved in Mint State (uncirculated condition), where it can be worth up to $150,000. A Philadelphia specimen in similar condition may fetch around $30,000, while its Denver counterpart can also reach similar values. Meanwhile, specimens originating from San Francisco are valued at approximately $18,000 in extremely fine conditions.

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Mo Menezes
Mo Menezes
Researcher and Contributor

Murilo (Mo) Menezes is an attorney and tenured English professor. His passion for economics and coinage led him to the gold and silver industry where he writes in-depth articles about collectible coins; as well as coin news and investing articles...

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