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Buffalo (1913-1938)

The Indian head buffalo nickel was produced from 1913 to 1938, inclusive. Mint marks for the coins are on the reverse, beneath the words “Five Cents” and above the rim. The Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints all participated in the mintage, though San Francisco generally had a much smaller annual production than either of the other two mints. The buffalo nickel, as designed by James Earle Fraser, featured a profile of a Native American on the obverse and an American Bison (buffalo) on the reverse. Fraser said he used Indian chiefs in the composite portrait. His memory was often faulty in this regard. The most likely models were Iron Tail, Two Moons, and Adoeette (also known as Big Tree). Fraser’s design is generally considered to be among the best designs of any U.S. coin. Matte proof coins were specially struck for collectors from 1913 to 1917 at the Philadelphia mint.

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