Rare Coins 101: The Starter’s Guide to the 1937 Buffalo Nickel

While the Buffalo nickel of 1937 is considered standard, some of the coins, if found, are extremely valuable. These expensive coins are actual finds. Therefore, it pays to know something about the various designs.

Common variety 1937 Buffalo nickels sell for about $1.80. The coin for that year is made of .250 nickel and .750 copper. Its face value is 5 cents, and it features a buffalo on the reverse and a native American on the obverse or front.

Looking for the Uncommon 1937 Buffalo Nickel

You can find 1937 Buffalo nickels in various types and values. For example, depending on the coin’s condition, a Type 1 1937 Buffalo nickel may be worth $2.26 to $41.73. The designer of the coin, James Earle Fraser, used a  bison known as Black Diamond, who lived at the Central Park Zoo, as his inspiration.

Coin Values of Buffalo Nickels

A 1937 “No-VDB” and 1937 Buffalo V-nickel may sell from $2.26 (for a well-circulated coin) or $41.00 for a nickel that still shows off some glossiness.

During a 2010 auction, one 1937 No VDB buffalo type nickel sans the Victor David Brenner initial on the back sold for an incredible $72,200. Quite a spike from the $40.00 paid for a coin still showing a bit of luster even in its old age. Brenner is known as the designer of the Lincoln penny.

You can quickly spot an authentic 1937 Type 1 buffalo type nickel without the letters “VDB” by checking the first digit of the date. If the first numeral is 8, you’ve got a “no VDB” coin. The 1937 V-nickel of the currency is valued between $5.00 and $41.00.

Some of these coins may be fake. For instance, a currency may be counterfeit if the word “Five” on the cash is more pronounced. Usually, genuine coins lack detail in that area.

A Truly Rare D Over S Buffalo Five Cent Piece

Type 2 buffalo nickels highlight a different reverse than their type 1 counterparts. While the bison on the type 2 coin is nicely outlined, it does not display as fine as exact type 1 coins. In addition, the ground beneath the buffalo’s hooves is raised a bit. When double-dyed and showing a D over S imprint, this rare and precious coin can be worth at least $2,500, which is one thing you should consider if you’re selling collectibles. The “D,” which is struck over the “S,” stands for the Denver mint. The “S” is the symbol for the San Francisco mint.

The Three-Legged Buffalo

On some D nickels, you’ll also spot a legendary error – a buffalo with only three legs, with its front leg missing from view. A Denver mint worker over shined the reverse of the coin’s die, which caused the poor bison to lose its leg. The classic coin created quite a stir after the error was made. It drew a great deal of interest then as it does now.

A bonafide 3-legged buffalo 1937-D nickel displays poor detailing along the buffalo’s right hind leg. Also, the  “E” and “U” in the motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” do not touch the bison’s back. The area of the missing leg should be free of scratches or marks.

Get Out Your Magnifying Glass

Needless to say, you have to be somewhat of a numismatic Sherlock Holmes when it comes to looking for coin rarities. A common yet uncommon coin, the 1937 buffalo 5-cent piece is one of the fun coins to investigate.