Coin Specifications

Category: Buffalo Five Cents (1913-1938)
Mint: San Francisco
Mintage: 1,200,000
Obverse Designer: James Earle Fraser
Reverse Designer: James Earle Fraser
Composition: Copper-Nickel
Weight: 5.0000g
Diameter: 21.2mm
Edge: Plain
Link to this coin

1931 S 5C MS obverse 1931 S 5C MS reverse

Expand All    Collapse All

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.


Loading... Working...

Use the scroll bar at the bottom of this box to view a summary of the NGC Price Guide, NGC Census, Auction Prices Realized and NGC Registry Scores for each grade.

There was no data found for this Coin.

Select Designation


Select Grade

*To view the Census details for this coin, please sign in or sign up.

Price Guide

Last Updated: 1/17/2017

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

1931 S 5C MS
Base $ 16.00 17.00 19.00 23.00 35.00 48.00 53.00 58.00 65.00 68.00 75.00 90.00 115 170 285 735 28000 - - -
$ - - - - - - - 95.00 125 230 490 1350 - -

NGC Price and Value Guides Disclaimer



Total Graded: 2220
Low Grade: G
Average Grade: 62
High Grade: 67

Upcoming Auctions

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
8/20/1997 PCGS MS 64   Teletrade Auction 0973, 973/Lot# 1199 $70.85
2/24/2001 PCGS MS 65   Heritage Auctions 2001 February Long Beach Bullet Sale #249, 249/Lot# 123 $207.00
5/27/2003 NGC MS 65   Heritage Auctions Exclusively Internet Auction #23061, 23061/Lot# 13303 $195.50
1/3/2006 PCGS MS 66   Heritage Auctions 2006 January Orlando, FL (FUN) Signature Auction #394, 394/Lot# 1539 $977.50
4/9/2007 NGC MS 64   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 134, 139/Lot# 132 $126.50
9/20/2010 PCGS MS 65   Bonhams Coins and Banknotes, 18602/Lot# 1045 $234.00
6/8/2014 PCGS MS 65   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 06/08/2014, 202/Lot# 199460 $257.13
9/22/2014 PCGS MS 66   Goldberg September 22-25, 2013 September Pre Long Beach, 75/Lot# 1371 $1,552.50
2/13/2015 PCGS MS 65   Stack's Bowers iAuction 3521, 6090/Lot# 20043 $223.25

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.
View full article >
The San Francisco Mint Coins of 1931, Part One

2/1/2006 — Every coin collector dreams of having a time machine at one time or another. Where would you go?
View full article >

NGC Auction Central Disclaimer