The Buffalo Nickel was initially referred to as the Indian Head Nickel, but as times changed, Buffalo Nickel was selected as a less offensive descriptor. Also, the creature on the coin is actually a bison, since the buffalo is native to Asia and Africa while the bison hails from the Americas. That said, let’s look through the facts and verify the 1936 Buffalo Nickel Value.
1936 Buffalo Nickel Value Chart
Good (G 4)
Fine (F 12)
Extremely Fine (EF 40)
Uncirculated (MS 60)
Mint State (MS 65)
|1936 ‘P’ No Mint Mark Buffalo Nickel Value||$1.14||$2.00||$3.30||$24||$45|
|1936 S Buffalo Nickel Value||$1.13||$2.00||$4.52||$42||$51|
|1936 D Buffalo Nickel Value||$1.13||$2.00||$4.52||$42||$51|
|1936 D Buffalo Nickel 3 and ½ Legs Value||$558||$1,713||$5,543||$17,055||$22,441|
History of the 1936 Buffalo Nickel
Nickels (5c) were first introduced in 1866, and the Buffalo Nickel was the third official design after the Shield Nickel (1866 to 1883) and the Liberty Head Nickel (1884 to 1912). The Buffalo Nickel was minted from 1913 to 1938 when it was replaced by the Jefferson Nickel.
The clad Buffalo Nickel was designed under the orders of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. At the time, American coins were used throughout the trading world, but President Roosevelt felt they weren’t pretty enough and had no true artistic merit.
He requested that professional sculptors be hired to redesign the coins. His first choice was Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and Saint-Gaudens did manage to make a new $10 Eagle and $20 Double Eagle before he passed away from cancer in 1907. The nickel was yet to be revamped.
James Earle Fraser was one of Saint-Gaudens assistants, so he stepped in to fill the gap. He did three sketches and the mint selected his Buffalo Nickel. Fraser said his design was based on several models, so it’s not clear who posed for the portrait, though several claimed to be.
These include Iron Tail, Two Moons, and John Big Tree. The latter routinely toured as ‘The Nickel Indian’. The public loved this coin, but it was a pain for the mint and the critics. It wore out dies at an alarming rate, and experts admitted the coin’s beauty would soon fade.
Fraser earned $2,500 for his work, plus $666 for his edits, but the critics were right – most Buffalo Nickels have a blurry portrait and no date. To try to resolve the issue, the coin’s design was altered to flatten the hill and enlarge the denomination, so the coin comes in two types.
Unfortunately, these changes made the dies wear out even faster. So while citizens loved the Buffalo Nickel, it was a nightmare for mint officials. Another issue was the Clarence Hobbs of the Hobbs Manufacturing Company. They made machines that could detect counterfeits.
Worried that these Buffalo Nickels wouldn’t pass muster, they requested a long list of edits that deeply frustrated Fraser. The back-and-forth went on throughout 1912 and 1913 until Fraser wrote a 10-page letter of complaint and Secretary MacVeagh overruled Hobbs’ ideas.
Repunched Mint Marks on Buffalo Nickels
On occasion, the mint mark on a coin can be controversial. An example is 1965 to 1967 when no coins bore mint marks because Mint Director Eva Adams blamed the mint marks for coin hoarding. But let’s focus on the mint marks of the 1936 Buffalo Nickels, especially D and S.
On coins from other years, Denver mint marks typically represent the lowest quality while San Francisco issues proofs and other high-value coins. In 1936 though, the priciest Buffalo Nickels were the 3 and ½ leg variety that came out of Denver. We’ll look at that coin later.
For now, let’s look at RPMs – repunched mint marks. The D/D or S/S (a D punched over another D or an S on top of an existing S) is easy to explain. But some coins have S over D, probably because extra Denver coins were shipped to San Francisco to prevent coin wastage.
The first ever RPM error was spotted on a 1938 Buffalo Nickel. It was a D/S mark, which is actually the reverse of the famous 1936 S/D Buffalo Nickel. Once that 1938 coin was spotted, numismatists started checking nickel coin rolls more carefully and found lots more RPMs.
Because 1936 was the second-last year for Buffalo Nickels, you can find them in better condition than earlier years. But as you inspect your coins, check the buffalo tail, buffalo horns, minting date, and denomination. Those are the areas that get the worst wear and tear.
The last Buffalo Nickel was released in April 1938. All the coins minted from 1913 to 1938 had Fraser’s maker’s mark on them. It’s the letter F on the front of the coin, just under the date of minting. These two – the initial and the minting date – often fade during circulation.
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Features of the 1936 Buffalo Nickel
The Buffalo Nickel has its minting year at the front and its mint mark at the back. It appealed to ordinary citizens, but the media and numismatists weren’t wild about it. Let’s check it out.
The Obverse of the 1936 Buffalo Nickel
The obverse (heads side) features the profile of a Native American warrior facing left. The word Liberty runs along the upper left collar, just in front of his nose. The year of minting is on the lower right below his neckline, but it’s worn off on most contemporary Buffalo nickels.
The Reverse of the 1936 Buffalo Nickel
The reverse (tails side) of the Buffalo Nickel has a bison facing right. Type I nickels have it standing on a hill while Type II coins have it on flatter ground. The upper collar reads United States of America, with E Pluribus Unum tucked under it. The lower collar reads Five Cents.
Other Features of the 1936 Buffalo Nickel
The Buffalo Nickel is 21.21mm in diameter (0.835”) and weighs 5g. It’s a clad cupronickel coin made of 75% copper and plated with 25% nickel. The outer surface is nickel, which is where the coin got its nickname. Its mint mark is at the back under the coin denomination.
1936 Buffalo Nickel Value Guide
The 1936 Buffalo Nickel was coined at all three mints, with 119,001,420 from Philadelphia, 24,814,000 from Denver, and 14,930,000 from San Francisco. Let’s review individual coins.
1936 No Mint Mark Buffalo Nickel Value
The 1936 ‘P’ No Mint Mark Buffalo Nickel was so greatly anticipated that they made almost 120M copies. That’s the greatest volume for any nickel to date. It’s worth about a dollar for a good grade and $45 in MS 63. It jumps to $1,268 if you can find a Buffalo Nickel in PR 63.
1936 S Buffalo Nickel Value
Of all the mints, 1936 S Buffalo Nickels had the smallest run with just under 15M coins minted. The lower mintage doesn’t make that much of a difference in pricing though. A good 1936 S Buffalo Nickel goes for $1.13 while MS 63 is only about $51. No proofs have sold yet.
1936 D Buffalo Nickel Value
While around 24M of these coins were made, they include some rarities. Particularly, the 1936 D 3 and a ½ legs variety. An ordinary non-error 1936 D Buffalo Nickel is worth $1.13 if it’s graded as good, but even the highest known grade of MS 63 is only worth $51 on average.
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1936 Buffalo Nickel Errors
Sometimes, the mistake on the coin comes from the hub, the die, or the finishing stages of the coin. When this happens, multiple coins carry the same error, and that’s called a variety. Let’s look at common 1936 Buffalo Nickel errors (and varieties) to see what they’re worth.
1936 D Buffalo Nickel 3 and ½ Legs Error
This coin was minted in such large volumes that it counts as a variety. Remember, the Buffalo Nickel dies wore out three times faster than Liberty Head dies, so they were used way past their exhaustion dates. A mint worker over-polished one of these old dies, inadvertently brushing off half a leg. In a G, it goes for $558 while in MS 63, it has sold as high as $22,441.
1936 DDO Buffalo Nickel
To make a coin, you first make a master hub, then use it to make master dies. The master dies are used to produce working hubs which are then used to form working dies. Working dies produce the coins. So if the die shifts during hubbing, it can cause a double die obverse error, mostly on the letters and numbers. That’s worth $50 in VF 20 and $1,200 in MS 65.
1936 DDR Buffalo Nickel Error
If the doubling on your 1936 Buffalo Nickel is on the front, then it’s a DDO. But in this case, the doubling occurred on the reverse. Check the legend. It may appear thicker towards the top, which indicates a doubling error. This DDR is worth about $100 in VF 20 and goes up to $1,500 in MS 65. You can see the doubling with your naked eye, but confirm it with a loupe.
1936 Buffalo Nickel Re-punched Mint Mark (RPM)Error #4
Most coins are struck multiple times to ensure all the details are captured. So you may find a coin with the mint mark punched twice (e.g. a D over another D, described as D/D), or with one mint mark stamped over another (e.g. a D over an S, described as D/S). One 1936 D/D Buffalo Nickel in MS 66 sold for $590. Another 1936 S/S in MS 65 sold for more than $820.
1936 DDO Buffalo Nickel Error
Because Buffalo Nickels are so worn out, a slight difference in the grade can significantly raise the price. We’ve looked at a 1936 DDO Buffalo Nickel in MS 65. But half a step up, the 1936 DDO Buffalo Nickel in MS 65+ earned over a thousand dollars more and sold for $2,100. The doubling shows clearest on the minting year (1936) and on the word Liberty.
1936 Buffalo Nickel Struck on a 10c Planchet #6
Coins are struck on blank discs called planchets. And sometimes, in the rush of minting, a coin is stamped on the wrong denomination. This will change the coin’s physical size, thickness, reeding, and/or metal composition. This nickel was struck on a 10-cent silver dime planchet, so the denomination error plus the melt value puts the coin’s price at $9,700.
1936 Buffalo Nickel Embedded Staple Obverse Error #7
If you work at the mint and you notice a coin with a piece of tape, fabric, or a staple stuck on it, you’ll probably feel pretty dumb. But on the resale market and among top numismatists, that error gives your coin premium value. This coin isn’t even a high grade – it’s only a VF 30. But because of that embedded staple on the jawline, the coin sold at auction for $745.
FAQs About the 1936 Buffalo Nickel
What is a 1936 Buffalo Nickel Worth?
In average condition, a 1936 Buffalo Nickel ranges from face value to a dollar or two. But if you can find one on MS 68 or higher, you’ll get as much as $37,500 for your precious nickel.
Is a 1936 Buffalo Nickel Made of Silver?
No, the 1936 Buffalo Nickel is a clad coin with 75% copper on the inside and 25% nickel on the outside. The nickel plating simulates the appearance of the original silver 1792 half-dimes.
How Do I Know if My Buffalo Nickel is Valuable?
Check the areas on the coin that are typically rubbed off. If your coin has clearly defined minting dates, mint marks, denomination, bison tail, and bison horns, it could be valuable.
What 1936 Buffalo Nickel is Worth the Most?
The most valuable 1936 D Buffalo Nickel is probably the 3 and a ½ leg variety. It can be worth quite a lot depending on its grade. In low grades like VF 20, it sells for $2,400. In a higher grade like MS 62, it sells for about $14,000. And in MS 63, it shoots up to $22,441!
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