by Peter J. Miksich, Jr., a Buffalo Nickel Devotee
A short but severe recession hit the Nation in 1921.
All denominations of coins were affected by the slowdown. Notably, it was also the first year of issue for the Peace Dollar.
The Philadelphia Mint, in an effort, maybe because of employee input, or just in a “make work” scenario, enhanced the quality of the dies for most coinage during the year.
The changes they made, however, were not carried over to following years. It is unknown why this happened.
Designs for nickels, dimes, quarters and fifty cent coins were all strengthened and re-engraved for this one year ONLY!
Strange, though, the enhancements were done to the Master Die for the year, and not the Master Hub.
The enhancements were not carried on to subsequent years, because the original master hub, from which all coins are made, was not changed. This is strange, to say the least, because this one year produced some fine, and nicely detailed coinage that could have been carried on if the Master Hub was permanently re-done.
So in detail and clarity of design, the 1921 dated coins stand as one-year enhancements to the Master Hub, making them in a way a one year type coin.
Confused? Well, this is a little complicated. But to put it into perspective for all of us non-technical peeps, here is what was done to the Buffalo five-cent coin:
During the entire run of Buffalo Nickels, the ONE in the date, regardless of its' location, was always represented as a straight up and down line with no serifs, or protrusions. Only during 1921, because of the enhancement to the Master Die and NOT the Master Hub, the One appears with a nice serif at the top, giving a distinctive "notch" to the number.
Because the Master Hub, the basis for all coinage in the future, was NOT changed -- everything beginning in the next year to be minted, reverted to the "straight" looking "One" in the date.
The only date in the entire series, and I'm repeating myself for stressing a point, that appears with a serif "One" is in 1921.
I believe this to be a one year type coin for the series, and distinctive in character for what it is to any other Buff preceding, or following.