Coin collecting remains a popular hobby today. A collection of Buffalo nickels presents an engaging pursuit for both young and advanced collectors. Your coins have the potential to add to a collection.
Condition Narrows Value Range
Judging condition directly links to how much your coin is worth. Rare dates and mintmark combinations are a start. Grading narrows into a close value range.
Using a single light source and magnification, first inspect for a clear date. The date area is high in relief on Buffalo nickels and quickly wears. A bold date showing places your coin in the upper grade ranges. Tilting the coin under the light at different angles helps find subtle details. Compare to the grading images, finding the grade closest to the condition of your coin.
Mint State Grade: Buffalo Nickel
Obverse: Features Identifying Mint State Grade: A strong demand is found in old nickels meeting the Mint State grade standards. No wear to the surface is the defining factor. A few points on the coin are checked to confirm this top condition.
Just under the Indian’s eye his cheek is one of the high points to design. Any wear shows as a color change to the metal and a smoothing of texture. Luster imparted during minting is a fine grain surface easily removed when worn. Judge the surface of the cheek to match surrounding areas.
View the hair along the parting line from his forehead to bow holding the feathers. High and low areas representing lines of hair remain without any smoothing. Expanding upward and below the part line all surfaces are similar in texture.
Reverse: Features Identifying Mint State Grade: High areas of the buffalo’s fur are inspected to detect any wear.
Along the upper shoulder where the fur meets the back remains with a luster indicating a mint state coin.
In the hip area, any wear causes a flattening of the profile and smoothness to the metal.
Look close at the lower edge of the ground, just above “Five Cents”. The ground surface and a defining lower line remains without flattening.
Extremely Fine Grade: Buffalo Nickel
Obverse: Features Identifying Extremely Fine Grade: A bold date, fully raised is a defining feature of the Extremely Fine grade.
All digits of the date are clear and well raised. Last digit of date is fully separated from the trailing end of the tie holding the braid of hair.
A small area of flatness is confined to just under the eye. A contour remains with no flat area connecting with the hair left of the eye.
Strands of hair remain bold throughout, blending with the feather is minimal.
Reverse: Features Identifying Extremely Fine Grade: Overall most of the fur details remain. Light wear has flattened only the upper areas of fur.
A distinct line remains separating the buffalo’s back with the line of fur along the upper leg to the upper back.
Contour remains on the hip with a noticeable raise area defined. Flatness is limited to the forward area of leg.
The majority of the buffalo’s horn is visible. On well struck examples the horn is complete with the tip well defined. Helping define the grade is areas of flatness are small and disconnected.
Fine Grade: Buffalo Nickel
Obverse: Features Identifying the Fine Grade: Heavy wear has begun to create large areas of flatness to the surface, placing the coin in Fine grade.
First to judge is the date. Although worn to a shallow profile, all digits must show. Each number is complete. The “one” is often very weak at the bottom, but is separate from the “nine”.
The long feather at the back of the head is only just beginning to merge with the Indian’s hair. A line of separation is evident but faint.
Letters of “Liberty” are faint. The majority of the tops of the letters are very weak and beginning to touch the rim. A complete separation indicates a strong Fine grade.
Reverse: Features Identifying the Fine Grade: Evidence of a horn remaining helps identify the Fine grade. The upper half of the horn is missing, however, a strong base to the horn is visible.
A defining line remains indicating the fur from the back of the buffalo.
Flattened areas of the head, shoulder, stomach, and hip are evident but no areas are connecting. A wide space remains identifying each design feature.
Good Grade: Buffalo Nickel
Obverse: Features Identifying the Good Grade: A date is readable but very faint. Defining the grade is the first digits “19” are readable. The “19” are merging with each other but enough remains to identify. Last two digits of date are better defined. A small raised area of all digits is always visible.
Hair detail is missing throughout the center portion above the braid. Flatness extends upward to the part in the hair.
“Liberty” is readable but fully connected with the rim. Often upper part of letters are very faint to missing.
Reverse: Features Identifying the Good Grade: A once fully profiled buffalo is now flat.
The buffalo’s head is missing the majority of his horn; a small base is sometimes seen. All fur detail to the head is one flat area.
A small connection of the buffalo’s head to the rim is noted.
Only a slight definition of contour remains separating head, shoulder, stomach, and hip. Wide areas of flatness are now larger than contoured areas. Overall a buffalo nickel in Good grade remains with a bold outline of both the Indian and buffalo.
How To Video: Grading Buffalo Nickels
Today, dealers and collectors are searching to find, and have the funds to buy well preserved coins. Your buffalo nickel value increases dramatically the better condition of your coin. A step by step video highlights the elements to the grades.
Source : Coin Study