Face Value: 1937 Nickels

Posted on 5/16/2023

Check the buffalo’s front legs and the mintmark for possible varieties that can hold a little (or a lot of) value.

The Buffalo Nickel boasts a stunning design by James Earle Fraser showing a realistic Native American on the obverse and a bison on the reverse. The design was beautiful but difficult to produce. After a 25-year run, it was phased out in 1938 in favor of the now-familiar Jefferson Nickel.

Buffalo Nickels are not seen in circulation these days. If you do come across one somewhere, check the year. Certain years are worth a closer look for rare varieties, including the series’ penultimate year: 1937.

1937-D Three-Legged Nickel

Buffalo Nickel collectors have identified several popular varieties that make the series more challenging to collect. These include what is probably the most popular nickel variety: the Three-Legged Buffalo.

1937-D Three-Legged Buffalo Nickel
Click images to enlarge.

When a Buffalo Nickel has a mintmark, it can be found at the bottom of the reverse, underneath FIVE CENTS. 1937 Three-Legged Buffalos are only found with the 'D' mintmark. The missing leg, which was caused by polishing a worn reverse die to extend its usefulness, is the leftmost one. According to the NGC Price Guide, any 1937-D Buffalo Nickel is worth hundreds of dollars. Examples graded AU 50 are valued at $1,000, while Mint State examples range from $2,200 in MS 60 to $110,000 in MS 67.

Mintmark Varieties

NGC Variety Plus identifies five overmintmark varities, including one S/S (VP-001), three D/D (VP-002 through VP-004) and one D/D/D (VP-005). These occur when a die has a mintmark that was punched over a previous one, and part of the previous mintmark can still be discerned.

S/S VP-001 D/D VP-002 D/D/D VP-005
Click images to enlarge.

Examples of sales of these 1937 overmintmark varieties include:

  • an S/S VP-001 graded NGC MS 66 that realized $59 through GreatCollections in December 2018
  • a D/D VP-002 graded NGC MS 66 that realized $89 through Heritage Auctions in September 2017
  • a D/D VP-004 graded NGC MS 65 that realized $188 through Heritage Auctions in November 2013

Typical 1937 Buffalo Nickels

Even if your 1937 Nickel isn't a Three-Legged Buffalo or a mintmark variety, you still have a vintage coin that is worth hundreds of times its face value in About Uncirculated or Mint State grades. No 1937-dated Proofs were made, but business strikes were produced at the Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver mint facilities.

1937 Buffalo Nickel
Click images to enlarge.
1937-D and 1937-S Buffalo Nickel Reverses
Click images to enlarge.

Regardless of the mintmark, examples graded AU 50 are worth $10, examples graded MS 60 are worth $20 and examples graded MS 63 are worth $35. The 1937 tops out at $8,000 in MS 68 and the 1937-D reaches $10,000 in the same grade. 1937-S examples are valued at $14,000 in MS 68 and $22,500 in MS 68+.

All values are based on the NGC Price Guide as of May 2023.

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