by Peter J. Miksich, Jr., a Buffalo Nickel Devotee
Depression era coinage has a distinct allure to me. Not only were mintages lower, but it stands to reason that this particular issue probably did not even need to be coined in the first place!
I think, probably it is true to state, that the Great Depression, with its’ affect on coinage, and the severe downturn in the economy, caught the US Mint in a “catch 22 situation”.
The economy slowed to a crawl, and the “Roarin’ Twenties” boom had produced more than an adequate amount of coinage for circulation up to that point.
Seems to me that the Mint, in fear of letting too many seasoned employees go off on furlough, and the risk of never seeing them again, presented the Mint with the problem of holding on to as many people as they could.
Thus, the “make do” coinage.
The Mint could not keep people around doing nothing. The truth was that it could be substantiated that a certain mintage of coins was needed. At the time, the real bottom of the depression was not yet being felt on the West Coast. But it was coming.
So it was decided that a 1931-S Nickel was needed.
Dies for the nickel were prepared and shipped ONLY to the San Francisco Mint in 1931. No other Mint produced them that depressing year.
Here’s where the fun begins.
Coin collecting was starting to become “the rage” around that time. There were no orders for new Nickels coming in from banks in the area.
The San Francisco Mint coined 194.000 Buffs in January, 1931 — and quit!
As the year dragged on, the main Mint in Philadelphia took notice of the extremely low mintage.
They advised San Francisco on November 19, 1931 to produce as many Buffs as could be done without overtime until the end of the year because the mintage would result in 1931-S nickels to be a non-circulating coin sought as a “premium” by collectors of the day.
The compliance to the order resulted in 1.200.000 Buffs total mintage, sparing us all from having to “ante up” for an extremely rare coin!
You gotta love it… and still, ya gotta love the 1931-S Buff even today.