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A Selection of Buffalo Nickels from the Forsythe Collection

 
Written by: Kathleen Duncan
 

As a continuation of the drive to beautify the nation’s coinage that began with Teddy Roosevelt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens revamping the gold denominations, all five minor U.S. coins received design upgrades between 1909 and 1916. In 1913, Charles E. Barber’s Liberty Head nickel was replaced by the Buffalo nickel of sculptor James Earle Fraser, who formerly worked as Saint-Gaudens’ assistant. The obverse renders an authentic portrait of a Native American warrior facing right and the initial reverse (Type 1) depicts a bison on a raised mound.  As the words “FIVE CENTS” were quickly showing wear on the initial design, a modification (Type 2) removing the mound was made by Charles Barber.

Over 1.2 billion Buffalo Nickels were minted at three Mints: Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver.  Circulation strikes were issued from 1913 through 1938.  In most years they were struck at all three active Mints, but none at all were produced in 1922, 1932 and 1933.  Additionally, Denver didn’t mint any for the years 1921, 1923, 1930 and 1931.  The Philly mint struck no nickels in 1931 and the final year, 1938.  And San Francisco didn’t create any in 1934 or 1938.  The 1938-D/S was produced when it was decided that Buffalo nickel dies would not be sent to San Francisco during the issue’s final year.  Reverse dies earmarked for San Francisco were instead repunched with D’s and produced in Denver.  There are a total of 64 regular issues spanning 23 production years.

Proofs were struck from 1913 until 1916 and again in 1936 and 1937. Mintages range from a low of 600 for the 1916 to a high of 5,769 for the final proof issue in 1937.  (In the late 1980s, five 1927 so-called Specimens were also discovered.)  Proofs from 1913 to 1916 display a matte finish and exhibit a slight granularity and frostiness.  For the most part, this style was not favored by collectors, and mintages declined steadily due to weak demand.  After a twenty year hiatus, Proof sales resumed with the more traditional “brilliant” or reflective style, which was much more favorably received.  There are actually two different Proof varieties in 1936: The Type 1, Satin finish, which is semi-prooflike; and the Type 2, Brilliant finish, which is more highly mirrored and reflective.  The 1937 also features the Brilliant finish.

The Buffalo nickel has been resurrected not once, but twice – the first time as a 2001 commemorative silver dollar, and again in 2006 as a $50 gold bullion coin proving its enduring appeal. The series hailed from the time when renowned artists created some of numismatics’ all-time best designs.  We are pleased to provide you with a wide selection of over forty coins from one of the series’ premier aficionados, Gerald Forsythe.  Jerry has been collecting this series for decades and holds the honor of number one finest PCGS Registry sets (of all time) not only for this series, but for Mercury dimes and Walking Liberty halves.  When he has a few too many duplicates, we find those pieces good new homes.  So enjoy this unusually nice selection of one of America’s most beloved coins.

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