Coin Specifications

Category: Buffalo Five Cents (1913-1938)
Mint: San Francisco
Mintage: 1,200,000
Catalog: KM-134
Obverse Designer: James Earle Fraser
Reverse Designer: James Earle Fraser
Composition: Copper-Nickel
Weight: 5.00 Grams
Diameter: 21.2mm
Edge: Plain
Numismatic specification data provided by Krause Publications NumisMaster.
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1931 S 5C MS obverse 1931 S 5C MS reverse


  
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Description & Analysis

The San Francisco Mint had no legitimate reason for coining nickels in 1931, as the demand for additional pieces simply didn't exist at the time. Indeed, a mere 194,000 were coined there in January, at which point production ceased. In November Acting Mint Director Mary O'Reilly wrote to the SFM superintendent pointing out that this small production would lead to an extraordinary demand from collectors and suggesting that he suspend dime production and churn out only nickels for the remaining weeks of 1931. This was done, resulting in a total mintage of 1,200,000 1931 S nickels. These coins sat idle in vaults for the next several years, not being released in quantity until 1935. Speculators jumped on this low-mintage issue, and many thousands were preserved in Mint State.

It is actually among the more common Buffalo Nickels in such grades, and worn examples are less often seen than new ones. In his book The Complete Guide to Buffalo Nickels, David W. Lange observed that "1931-S is to the Buffalo Nickel series what 1950-D is to the Jefferson Nickels."

This has done nothing to lessen the demand, though it does keep this low-mintage coin from becoming expensive. While a few sharply struck examples are known, most are a bit soft at their centers. Nearly all, however, have excellent luster.

Several doubled-die reverse varieties are known, but these have attracted little interest. More appealing is a distinct S/S variety.

GRADE SUMMARY

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Price Guide

Last Updated: 4/3/2014

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1931 S 5C MS
  GVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base $ 15.50 16.50 18.50 22.50 33.00 33.00 48.00 55.00 58.00 63.00 67.00 71.00 80.00 105 160 325 700 32500 - - -
$ 37.00 52.00 58.00 63.00 67.00 71.00 75.00 90.00 115 210 450 2675 48000 -
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Census

 
NGC GRADE SUMMARY

Total Graded: 2007
Low Grade: G
Average Grade: 63
High Grade: 67


Upcoming Auctions

A random selection of NGC coins is shown below.

Images
Date
Grade
Auction House
Sale / Lot
1/12/2015 MS 65   Heritage Auctions 2015 January 7 - 12 FUN US Coins Signature Auction - Orlando Session(8), 1216/Lot# 9633


Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Images
Date
Service
Grade
Auction House
Sale / Lot
Price
11/19/1997 PCGS MS 63   Teletrade Auction 0999, 999/Lot# 1194 $45.78
5/27/2009 PCGS MS 65   Heritage Auctions 2009 May Long Beach, CA Signature US Coin Auction #1125, 1125/Lot# 7377 $230.00
9/20/2010 PCGS MS 65   Bonhams Coins and Banknotes, 18602/Lot# 1045 $234.00
6/10/2012 PCGS VF 35   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 06/10/2012, 26/Lot# 54570 $25.99
11/24/2013 PCGS MS 65   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 779, 788/Lot# 529 $295.00
6/2/2014 NGC AU 58   Stack's Bowers iAuction 3484, 6033/Lot# 20079 $57.58
9/22/2014 PCGS MS 66   Goldberg September 22-25, 2013 September Pre Long Beach, 75/Lot# 1371 $1,552.50
9/22/2014 PCGS MS 66   Goldberg September 22-25, 2013 September Pre Long Beach, 75/Lot# 1372 $1,208.00


Related Articles

The San Francisco Mint Coins of 1931, Part Two

3/1/2006  — The 1931-S nickel is an enormously popular coin with collectors, due to both its very low mintage for a 20th century issue and its relatively high availability in Mint State condition. This fortunate convergence has allowed collectors of moderate means to own a nice, lustrous example of a coin that, in theory, should be almost unobtainable.
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The San Francisco Mint Coins of 1931, Part One

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