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: 5.0000g
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 67.00 71.00 85.00 110 165 335 825 38000 - - -
$ 37.00 - - - - - - 90.00 120 200 540 2750 - -

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Total Graded: 2176
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
10/22/2007 NGC MS 64   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 188, 194/Lot# 8157 $115.00
10/7/2009 PCGS MS 65   Teletrade Auction 2755, 2755/Lot# 1130 $241.50
9/20/2010 PCGS MS 65   Bonhams Coins and Banknotes, 18602/Lot# 1045 $234.00
3/27/2011 PCGS MS 64   Heritage Auctions Internet Coin Auction Session(2), 131114/Lot# 20667 $126.50
10/17/2012 NGC MS 64   Stack's Bowers The November 2012 Baltimore Auction - US and World Lots - Live and Internet Only Sessions, 144/Lot# 24370 $126.50
1/5/2014 PCGS MS 64   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 01/05/2014, 176/Lot# 162325 $110.00
9/22/2014 NGC MS 61   Goldberg September 22-25, 2013 September Pre Long Beach, 75/Lot# 626 $529.00

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The San Francisco Mint Coins of 1931, Part One

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