Dateless Buffalo Nickels – How Much Are They Worth? See Why No-Date Buffalo Nickels Exist And How To Find The Date



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No-date Buffalo nickels (those without visible dates, also called dateless Buffalo nickels) may not be worth very much money — but they’re still interesting coins to collectors and non-collectors alike!

It’s important to know that every dateless Buffalo nickels did possess a date at one time — because the U.S. Mint did not make any Buffalo nickels without dates.

So, why are some Buffalo nickels dateless and others are not?…

 

The Reason For No-Date Buffalo Nickels

Buffalo nickels were made from 1913 to 1938.

The reason that some Buffalo nickels have no dates is simply because the dates have been worn off after many years in circulation.

The dates on these Buffalo nickels wore off mainly due to the location of the date on the coin itself.

The date is located just on the bottom left on the Buffalo nickel — on the shoulder of the Indian. This means that the date sits high off the surface of the coin and is one of the first places that wear will take place on the Buffalo nickel.

It can take many years — sometimes decades — of normal wear and tear to rub a date off a Buffalo nickel.

Approximately halfway through 1913, the design was reworked, and the mound of dirt that the buffalo is standing on was changed to have a recessed space beneath it to display the denomination of “FIVE CENTS.” This new design eliminated the problem of the date wearing away prematurely. Source

Still… millions of dateless Buffalo nickels exist!

For a coin which saw heavy use during the Great Depression, you can bet that dateless Buffalo nickels would tell interesting stories if they could talk.

 

How Much Are Dateless Buffalo Nickels Worth?

Not knowing what year a coin was made makes it harder for that coin to tell its story — so to speak.

That’s why some people tend to throw away dateless Buffalo nickels as worthless.

But wait — those dateless Buffalo nickels are not worthless!

While still cheap, they have risen somewhat in value over the past decade. For example, dateless Buffalo nickels were obtainable for less than 20 cents years ago. In fact, they were often spent for face value by those who just wanted to get rid of them.

More recently, dateless Buffalo nickels have been going for as much as 50 cents — and more.

Coin dealers may be willing to pay you 10 to 20 cents for a dateless Buffalo nickel.

 

The Popularity Of Buffalo Nickels With No Date

While not valuable, dateless Buffalo nickels are liked for many reasons.

First off, even a dateless Buffalo nickel is still highly valued by those who appreciate the romance behind the legendary American coin.

Indian head nickels and Buffalo nickels hearken to an earlier, golden time in American history.

Dateless Buffalo nickels would often find homes within the workshops and studios of artisans and jewelers.

In fact, many decades ago, those down on their luck would scrape new designs on the Buffalo nickel and pass off their artwork in exchange for meals, clothing, or a bed to lie on overnight. These artistic Buffalo nickels are referred to as Hobo Nickels.

These days, dateless Buffalo nickels make wonderful gifts for young collectors. Handling an old Buffalo nickel — even one without a date — can spark the interest in a child to a pursue a hobby that can last a lifetime.

 

How To Find The Date On A Dateless Buffalo Nickel

Using chemicals on dateless Buffalo nickels to reveal the date has its pros and cons.

Most importantly, using acid (or ferric chloride, sold as Nic-a-Date restorer) to reveal the date on a Buffalo nickel can be physically hazardous to a careless user. It also ruins the value of the coin.

Although it will cause the date to reappear on a Buffalo Nickel which has lost its date, ferric chloride also leaves a blotchy, rough, acid spot of damage on the coin that ruins any value the nickel might have had. Also, the date will fade again over time, and each time you use the chemical again, it brings back less and less of the date (leaving an increasingly ugly acid mark instead.) Never use chemicals on the surface of your nickels to restore partial dates because partial-date Buffalo Nickels are worth more than totally dateless nickels. Depending on which digits are showing, the nickel can be worth anywhere from 50 cents (if the part showing is the first 2 or 3 digits) to about 20% of market value if the last 2 or 3 digits are readable. Source

Numismatically speaking, applying any cleaner, acid, or chemical to a coin effectively damages it in the eyes of virtually any numismatist — effectively lowering its value.

Applying acid to a dateless Buffalo nickel should be done only for the entertainment of seeing what date used to be on the coin.

That said, on occasion, using acid on a dateless Buffalo nickel can reveal a scarce — even rare — date!

In such a circumstance, using acid on a dateless Buffalo nickel can actually be beneficial and possibly can increase the value of a formerly dateless Buffalo nickel.

Still… in most cases, using acid on a Buffalo nickel (or any coin) poses a risk to your health and effectively ruins the coin in the eyes of coin collectors.

Think of any coin you apply acid to as one that you are sacrificing — just for curiosity’s sake.

Joshua

I'm the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!

13 thoughts on “Dateless Buffalo Nickels – How Much Are They Worth? See Why No-Date Buffalo Nickels Exist And How To Find The Date

  1. Hi, Josh. I have a question about the grading of Buffalo nickels when the use the turn ( Obverse rim intact ) Dose this mean clean sharp edges,? Or into the date ,because the date lies so close to the rim! I’m just a little unsure as to the Red Books meeting of intact. .. And when they say Legends an date readable!is that mean with a necked eye or magnification and as always thanks for all your help Josh

  2. Gosh, This article brings back a lot of great memories. I started collecting coins when i was about 7 or 8 years old. i won’t say how long ago that was but I remember my mother taking me to the bank and we’d buy $20.00 worth of rolled pennies. I’d look through the rolls to see what I could find and I was able to fill a blue Whitman US Penny board,with a lot of nice circulating examples, save pennies in the earlier years of the tens and twenties. I only found one semi-key Lincoln cent, a 1912-S in great condition, and that was very exciting so this might give a hint of how old I am. Anyway, this started an interest in coins that I still continue to this day. Regarding Buffalo or Indian nickles, I was able to collect quite a few of these with dates, simply by going through rolled coins from our local bank. I also accumulated quite a few dateless ones. One I acquired was dateless but I knew it was a 1913 type 1, with the Buffalo on the mound. Nic A Date sure brought back a few memories and frankly, since I haven’t seen it in years, I thought this product had ceased being made. Over the years I’ve gone to coin and stamp collector shows and frankly haven’t seen Nic A Date. Unfortunately, there’s nothing much in circulation these days as everyone has become a coin collector,. I think the days of finding good coins in circulation and bank rolls creased in the mid 1960’s when silver was replaced with clad coinage, although if you’re really lucky, you might get a Buffalo nickel or Mercury dime but again, these stand out and rarely circulate any more!

    1. Hello, Bill–

      I really appreciate your kind feedback and sharing your memories with us. It sounds like you were involved in the hobby during its glory days, back when roll searching was king, penny boards and a plethora of various coin folders could be found at just about any store, and when one could turn around and sell a new silver proof set or uncirculated set from the U.S. Mint for a tidy profit. Those were the days, and while I wasn’t around at that time, I wish I had been.

      I think it’s true that good circulation finds are leaner in number these days than, say, 50 years ago. Having said that, I think the types of circulation finds one may make today are still interesting, if vastly different than in days of yore. Possibly errors and varieties represent the best, most lucrative types of coins available in circulation today. Still, all of these years later, the hobby reigns supreme among pastimes, and it’s great there are folks out there such as yourself who can share with us the memories of what it was like during yesteryear.

      I hope you’re still enjoying the hobby today as much as you did when you found that 1912-S Lincoln cent!

      All my best,
      Josh

      1. Gee Josh,, So nice to hear from a fellow coin collector. Over the years i’ve sporadically collected coins and recently, i’ve been participating in on line coin auctions. A while ago, i participated in an on line auction and won two lots of 1000 ‘UNSEARCHED’ Lincoln cents dated 1909 -1939. The average price for these cent coins came to about 14 – 20 cents apiece after auction premiums and other charges. I spoke with the auction house before the auction regarding these two lots and was told that these had come from a man who in the mid 1930’s to the early 1940’s owned and operated a saloon in the mid west and this accumulation was being sold by his family. and were basically coins that came from the cash register and were spent by his customers. This being the late depression years, hopefully there are some ‘goodies’ and sleepers in these lots.. These were just bagged up in quantities of 1000 coins and were unsearched. When I heard this, realizing these were accumulated 75 – 85 years ago, hopefully there’s some good coins in these two lots Since I have quite a few empty slots in my coin boards,that needed to be filled, I thought I’d give this a bid. There were a few semi keys but alas no 1909-S, VDB, S-VDB, or 1914-D. Luckily these coins were in very good condition and there were quite a few mint marked coins, always harder to find than Philadelphia. I’ve been able to fill some more of the empty slots in my coin board but the search continues, you never know what you’ll get in your next hand full of change!

        1. Hello, Bill —

          What a great post — thank you for sharing your story! It sounds like you really did quite well with the two bags of unsearched Lincoln cents. Considering the average price per coin of 14-20 cents, the return sounds like it was pretty good, considering you found semi-keys. While I’m not sure which ones you found, if you found any “D” or “S” mints from 1910-1916, you would have a good return on your investment and, even better, filled some difficult holes in your collection.

          I hope you keep enjoying the hobby and make some more terrific finds both in the auction arena and with circulation searches!

          All my best,
          Josh

          1. most of them work the shows and seem to make better money and meet more serious collectors, and don’t have to deal with the threat of robbery, as most of these shows, at least the ones I went to, had armed guards as well as plain clothed police ready to deal with any attempted robbery

          2. Gee Josh: Thanks for your response. It seems that everyone today is a coin collector but most of them don’t have any direction and haven’t a clue as to the right way to assemble a decent collection. It seems harder and harder to find decent collectible coins in circulation but if you keep your eyes open, sometimes you get lucky. The convenience stores in the low income neighborhoods as well as the 99 cents only stores and the dollar stores, at least the ones in low income neighborhoods sometimes get good coins from their customers. The cashiers are often young people starting out in the work force and aren’t very sophisticated and don’t know what to look for. They’re busy checking out customers and don’t really care how the customers pay as long as it’s US currency, no checks, for obvious reasons. I’ve thought of going to a few of the banks to buy rolled pennies in a couple of iffy neighborhoods here in San Francisco but I don’t want to to carry my haulings back on the bus, for obvious reasons and with the drive by shootings, don’t want to take my new car into these areas. It seems that the only feasible ways to add to your collection is to do the auctions and if possible, the shows. Years ago, these were often advertised in the local Sunday newspaper and were sponsored by the ANA and were held in convention centers and major hotel conference rooms. it seems that the retail coin store, that used to be common in many cities, has gone the way of the dinosaur. i’ve spoken to various coin dealers at shows and it seems that most of them don’t want to deal with dealing out of a retail shop, the rent and security being the main issues. At the shows, at least the ones I went to, there were obvious armed guards present in case anyone got any ideas and I’m sure there were plain clothed police there as well.

    1. Awesome, Jason! I’d suggest that your 1921-S Buffalo nickel might be worth somewhere around $25 to $40 , more or less, as a filler coin.

      Cool find!
      Josh

  3. Wow, this story about ‘Indian head ‘ nickles takes me back, too far i’m afraid. i recall getting ‘Buffalo’ nickles in pocket change and in bank rolls in the early 1960’s. Many if not most of the ones you got in the early 1960’s were dateless but sometimes you got one with a date or partial date. Then when they took :the silver out of the coins in 1965, everyone became a ‘coin collector’ but by then most of all of the good stuff had been pulled from change and bank rolls Back in the 1950’s you could get some real good collectible coins in pocket change. early wheat pennies, mercury dimes and walking liberty half dollars and on the very rare occasion, liberty standing quarters could be found. The latter coin like the ‘Indian head’ nickle was usually well worn. And i remember ‘nick a date as well. i didn’t know what the chemical was but as i recall you put a drop on the area where the date was and in a couple of minutes the original date appeared. Wow, such great memories. Those were the days of real coin collecting whee you could assemble a nice collection of say wheat pennies and sometimes get issues as far back as the 20’s and 30’s, some with mint marks and if you were really lucky, you might get something rare.. I recall getting a 1912 S wheat back penny in the early 1960’s and I still have that coin!

    1. Hi, Bill!

      I loved reading your story. It sounds like you were in the hobby at just the right time… The glory days of the late 1950s and into the ’60s, when older semi-key and even key coins were still available (if only scarcely found), older 20th-century types were circulating, and silver coinage was still being made. I think the fact you still have your 1912-S Lincoln cent is really neat! I appreciate your taking time to share your wonderful recollections here.

      Cheers,
      Josh

  4. Hello so I recently inherited some coins and while looking threw them I came across a dateless/no Liberty Indian head buffalo nickel again and I remember my grandpa saying that, “this one’s worth a good chunk of change”. But how? Could you possibly help? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/780d3f5ea94ccb1442f2ec8053ca251c2d9ae9c6b0998ed56a9ca7accc96899c.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/79d8dcb3944df62419d0978c02c1263fd9c824a44279b2f75bc0587a69999af4.jpg

    1. Hi, Kendra —

      Here’s more info on dateless Buffalo nickels: https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/no_date_buffalo_nickel/

      Wishing you the best,
      Josh

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