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.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 7/10/2015

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

1931 S 5C MS
Base $ 15.50 16.50 18.50 22.50 33.00 48.00 55.00 58.00 63.00 71.00 85.00 110 165 335 825 38000 - - -
$ 37.00 - - - - - 90.00 120 200 540 2750 - -

NGC Price and Value Guides Disclaimer



Total Graded: 2071
Low Grade: G
Average Grade: 63
High Grade: 67

Upcoming Auctions

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
9/21/1996 PCGS MS 66   Heritage Auctions 1996 September Long Beach Sale #162, 162/Lot# 6108 $467.50
9/24/2001 PCGS MS 65   Teletrade Auction 1485, 1485/Lot# 1135 $196.20
9/20/2010 PCGS MS 65   Bonhams Coins and Banknotes, 18602/Lot# 1045 $234.00
9/4/2011 PCGS MS 64   Goldberg September 4-6, 2011 The Pre-Long Beach Auction, 65/Lot# 882 $172.50
4/21/2013 PCGS MS 65   Heritage Auctions Internet Coin Auction Session(1), 131318/Lot# 28097 $258.50
6/30/2013 PCGS MS 66   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 758, 767/Lot# 90 $625.00
6/2/2014 NGC AU 58   Stack's Bowers iAuction 3484, 6033/Lot# 20079 $57.58
7/6/2014 PCGS Genuine UNC   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 07/06/2014, 188/Lot# 198815 $55.00

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The San Francisco Mint Coins of 1931, Part One

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