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Valuable Nickels: Which Coins are Worth the Most?

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Most of the coins in your pocket, purse or couch cushions aren’t worth more than face value. However, jingling around with all of that common metal money, you just might find rare nickels worth much more than their original five-cent amount.

Many US nickels are prized by coin collectors. Some (like the new nickels in circulation) bear the familiar likeness of our third president, Thomas Jefferson. Other, older nickels feature the profile of an Indian one one side and a buffalo on the other. Knowing precisely which of these pieces of metal currency is valuable requires the expertise of a knowledgeable rare coin and currency specialist. Bring your nickels to their location to determine if the coins are worth their face, worth a fortune, or (if they’re fake) worth nothing.

Buffalo Nickels Background

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Sculptor James Earl Fraser used his considerable skills to craft a number of coins, including the buffalo nickel. He created both sides of the coin–the face features the profile of a Native American man, reportedly a composite of several noted tribal chiefs. The reverse is a buffalo standing on a mound, originally with the denomination “five cents” above it. Legend has it that the likeness of the buffalo was modeled on a New York City Zoo resident named Black Diamond.

The coin entered circulation in 1913; about halfway through the year, the design was changed with the denomination recessed below the coins rim. Its last minting took place in 1938.

Buffalo Nickels vs. Indian Head Nickels 

Some civilians call these nickels “buffalo nickels.” Other people refer to the coins as “Indian head nickels.” However, while the two names might cause some confusion, dealers and collectors know that the two names refer to the same coin.

Buffalo Nickels: Value

While buffalo nickels are old and can be beautiful to look at, only some of these antique coins hold significant value. Most of these coins, because they often are passed down from generation to generation, hold more sentimental value than monetary. If that’s the case, they can be carefully washed and kept in a place of honor instead of being sold. 

However, a small number of buffalo nickels are worth more than just five cents. Thanks largely to minting errors–buffalo with 3 or 3.5 legs, overprinted numbers and so on–some of the coins can fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction. To determine exactly if you’re holding nickels worth keeping or selling, get in touch with an experienced coin dealer for an appraisal. The below guide gives a general idea of which coins are worth your dealer’s attention, their mint marks, and their estimated top worth (if in certified mint condition). Please note these are only estimates and not a guarantee of your coin’s actual value–they may be worth more or less, depending on their condition and unique features. Again, we encourage you to reach out to a specialist to get a specific pricing appraisal.

1913 Nickel

  • P: up to $175
  • D: up to $480
  • S: up to $1,750

1916 Nickel

  • P: up to $114
  • D: up to $1,780
  • S: up to $180

1917 Nickel

  • P: up to $185
  • D: up to $90
  • S: up to $1,750

1918 Nickel

  • P: up to $32
  • D: up to $3,300
  • S: up to $1,760

1919 Nickel

  • P: up to $80
  • D:  up to $2,350
  • S: up to $1,155

1924 Nickel

  • P: up to $15
  • D: up to $3,000
  • S: up to $14,000

1926 Nickel

  • P: up to $26
  • D: up to $1,100
  • S: up to $7,600

1927 Nickel

  • P: up to $85
  • D: up to $400
  • S: up to $5,000

1935 Nickel

  • P: up to $125
  • D: up to $525
  • S: up to $250

1936 Nickel

  • P: up to $67
  • D: up to $110
  • S: up to $100

1937 Nickel

  • P: up to $90
  • D: up to $50
  • S: up to $100

2005 Nickel

The US Mint created and circulated a new nickel in 2005. The coin features an offset portrait of Thomas Jefferson on one side, and a buffalo on the reverse. This nickel frequently is referred to as a “buffalo nickel” because of the animal depicted on it; unfortunately, this coin is not worth more than face unless it is a proof, in uncirculated condition or bears a unique minting error.

Jefferson Nickels Background

The Jefferson nickel replaced the buffalo nickel in 1938 and has been the US Mint’s five-cent piece of choice ever since. The coin features a profile of President Jefferson on the front, and his home Monticello on the back. This design was arrived at after a contest judged by the Mint’s director and three sculptor, with artist Felix Schlag’s winning idea taking home the $1,000 prize.

The look and the materials used in making the coin have changed over the years. The nickel metal was shifted to silver during World War II so that nickel could be used in the war effort. Schlag’s initials (not included in the original design) were added in 1966. Also, a number of special decorations have been shown on the reverse, such as the Lewis and Clark expedition in 2004-05. And, Jefferson’s profile was given a facelift in 2006.

Jefferson Nickels: Value

The below guide gives a general idea of which coins are worth your dealer’s attention, their mint marks, and their estimated top worth (if in certified mint condition)..

1938 Nickel

  • D: up to $150
  • S: up to $50
  • No mint mark: up to $1,800

1939 Nickel

  • D: up to $200
  • S: up to $80
  • No mint mark: up to $880

1940 Nickel

  • D: up to $120
  • S: up to $50
  • No mint mark: up to $120

1941 Nickel

  • D: up to $100
  • S: up to $150
  • No mint mark: up to $175

1942 Nickel

  • D: up to $100
  • S: up to $145
  • No mint mark: up to $75

1943 Nickel

  • P: up to $450
  • D: up to $1,400
  • S: up to $65

1944 Nickel

  • P: up to $420
  • D: up to $1,750
  • S: up to $85

1945 Nickel

  • P: up to $280
  • D: up to $140
  • S: up to $120

1955 Nickel

  • D: up to $110
  • No mint mark: up to $165

1962 Nickel

  • D: up to $65
  • No mint mark: up to $15

1963 Nickel

  • D: up to $102
  • No mint mark: up to $32

1964 Nickel

  • D: up to $150
  • No mint mark: up to $43

1976 Nickel

  • P: up to $1
  • D: up to $440
  • S: up to $4

2004 Nickel

The limited-circulation “Keelboat” nickel features a special handshake decoration celebrating the Louisiana Purchase. While the design is striking, the value is less impressive–a certified-mint Keelboat nickel fetches less than a dollar at auction.

What Do the P, D, and S Stand for on a Nickel?

The P, D, and S stand for the location at which the rare coin was minted. “P” stands for the Philadelphia mint; “D” stands for the Denver mint; and “S” stands for the San Francisco mint.

What are Nickels Made Of?

Currently, nickels are made up of their namesake metal, but they include more copper–about 25% nickel and the remaining 75% copper, according to the US Mint. This pairing of metals has been favored by the Mint since the 1800s, thanks to its durability and ability to create quality images on the coins. The nickel briefly shifted to silver during World War II, and it went back to the nickel-copper blend after the war ended. That may shift again; by the end of 2013, the cost of making the $0.05 coin had shifted to $0.09.

Interested in finding out just how much your ancient nickels might be worth? Reach out to Las Vegas Jewelry & Coin Exchange. Our rare coin and currency experts will appraise your coins while you wait, at no cost to you, and offer a fair price if you choose to sell.


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