by Peter J. Miksich, Jr., a Buffalo Nickel Devotee
A few more thoughts about the Buffalo Nickel Series, learned over the years…
1) 1913-S Type I is the worst struck out of the three mints that produced Buffs. Problems in the mound area, mintmark, and Bison detail on the reverse, along with indistinct date detail on the obverse near and including the date are common. When you select yours, be aware of these faults.
2) 1914-D is struck softly in the center details on both the obverse and reverse. Decent looking coins are the rule -- but not hammered ones. Anything above 63 in mint state is a good buy.
3) Finding a top-notch 1917-S in any grade VF or above is a definite CHALLENGE. 1917-D is not far behind, also. The horn on the Buff for this date and mint just seems to fade into the badly struck head detail, leaving most to be market-graded
4) For some reason, 1918-P has real problems with strike. For a Philly coin, this is an aberration. The central detail on the obverse, the Indians Knot, hair, and braid are indistinct. Look for one with bold central details. They can be found.
5) Good luck finding ANY 1920-D that looks decent in VF or above. If you do, buy it!. This date and mint are among the most scarce coins in higher grade in the entire Buff series.
6) 1921-S in fine is becoming RARE. I can't believe the recent price jump. If you can find one, buy it.
7) 1924-P: This issue is difficult to come by when selecting even a nice, circulated example. They were not properly made from the Master Hub, so none will be great looking. They are always soft on the Buffs head, and the date area. Being a Philly coin, one can understand the rarity and disaster in 1924 that came from Denver and San Francisco, both of these Mints produced horribly struck coins, the softer pressure of the strike only made an incomplete coin worse.
Look for the best specimen you can find that exhibits the most detail on the above mentioned areas.
8) 1928-D, 1928-S: (Mint state issues)
Both are rare fully struck up. Even the 1928-P is kind of soft. The Mint was starting to use chromium-plated dies introduced this year, so the overall strike is not anywhere near as horrible as previous years. You're better off finding a decent strike on the Denver issue over the San Francisco coin, and unless you want Gem quality (MS-65 and up) , you should be able to find a nice bright 63 that won't break the bank.
9) ALL mint marked coins from 1917 to 1927 are low in quality for many different reasons, including poor die steel, low striking pressure, incomplete hubbing, re-use of old reverse dies to complete a run of coins, and uneven strikes. (as if it wasn't bad enough, some coins were even struck either with one side or the other fully struck, and the other terminally weak).
10) 1919-D to my knowledge, has NEVER been found with a complete strike ( I may be wrong on this), and is one of the last coins most Buff collectors purchase to finish their collection.
11) Find any 1921-S that looks good and buy it (as stated before, they are becoming RARE in fine or above)
12) 1924-D and S , and 1925-D and S, and 1926-D and S are the very WORST coins in the whole series for strike.
13) 1925-D rivals 1919-D for the top honor. 1926-D, as horrible as they are still can be found acceptable with some searching. Be selective.
Just remember, when searching through this date range, all you can hope for, is finding the best strike you could. That, in itself is a real challenge.
Here are some additional guidelines for you
1) 1937 3-Leg authenticity check:
If you do not know if a specimen is real, all you have to do is look at the bottom inside feather. ALL 37-D genuine 3-leg coins are actually 2 1/2 feather coins. Look real close at the inside of the feather where it should connect to the Indian, and you will see that it has been "abraded". There is a definite gap where the feather should connect to the back of the Indian.
2) Purchasing a VF 1926-S raw or slabbed specimen is your call. ALL OF THEM, at least the ones that I know of, do not meet the criteria of the grade. They do not show the full length of the horn due to strike. They are market graded by "overall wear". I know it cost serious money, but if you're going to buy one, you decided to spend that money.
You may never find one, but hold out for a full-horn-to-the-tip coin.
3) When purchasing 1920-S, EVEN IF IT IS IN CIRCULATED GRADE -- look for one that has a decent reverse, because ANY coin from that year and Mint with a decent reverse strike commands a premium.
4) NEVER... purchase a raw 1913-S Type 2 in a high grade (VF or above) without a guarantee from the seller. ALWAYS purchase one from a reputable dealer.
5) 1927-D is notorious for a weak reverse. Be selective. Coins with well-struck reverses are few and far between.
6) When looking for a 1923-S in XF or better, purchase one with a full horn to the tip NOT a market graded coin with mint luster but not a complete horn. Flat heads rule on this issue.
Knowledge is power.