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Buffalo (coin) A Uniquely American Coin History

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Buffalo Coin: Buffalo nickels, also known as Indian Head nickels, were produced by the U.S. Mint from 1913 to 1938. The designer was James Earle Fraser, a student of famed sculptor Augustus Saint Gaudens. Fraser later stated that he intended to design a completely American coin.

Buffalo coin History information 

Buffalo coin


Several Native Americans claimed to be the Buffalo coin model for the front of the nickel and sought to capitalize on their claim through personal appearances. Over time, it has come to be accepted that the portrait was a composite. After the run of the Buffalo nickel, Fraser named Big Tree, a Kiowa, Two Moons, a Cheyenne, and Irontail, a Sioux, as the three Native Americans upon whom he modeled his design.

The animal represented is, in truth, not a buffalo but a North American bison – a species once found in great herds on the plains and readily identified with the expansion of the American West. The animal is believed to have been modeled after Black Diamond, a bison in residence at the Central Park Zoo in New York City.

However, there is a possibility that Fraser’s model was Bronx, the leader of the herd at the Bronx Zoo. Although Black Diamond was slaughtered in 1915, his stuffed head occasionally appears at coin shows and conventions around the country.

American Buffalo coins must be circulated for at least 25 years before being redesigned. The last Buffalo nickels were struck in 1938 and replaced with a design depicting Thomas Jefferson on the front, and his home, Monticello, on the reverse.

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