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A Few Questions For Buffalo Collectors

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Valued Member

United States
409 Posts
 Posted 11/02/2019  09:28 am Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add johnny676767 to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
A little background first, then I'd like to hear your opinions and ideas on a few points.

I have a raw Buffalo nickel collection missing only the 1913 S type 2 and varieties. Grades are all over the place from AG- UNC.

I have an uncirculated, slabbed (MS 63-65) date set (one coin for each year) missing the 18, 21, 31s, and 24.

You'll notice these are the higher priced ones! However, that's not the only reason I don't have them. This leads me to my questions.

1. Why is the 24 so hard to find in uncirculated grades? I am just talking about the P, which actually seems harder to find than the other mint marks. The 24 P mintage at 21.6 million is very much in line with the 28 at 23.4 million. However, the 28 is available all over the place, raw and slabbed in my price range (63-64 in general). I go to shows and shops but most purchases are from eBay.

2. As mentioned I don't have a 31s in Unc, but this is very common in 63-65. I just have not found a good example at a good price. Was this date hoarded because the S was the only one minted? Did the public or collectors know about the low mintage (1.2 million)and therefore kept them?

3. Any idea why the 18 is so hard to find at a decent price in 63? Mintage at 30 million, which is significantly above both the 14 and 15, would seem to indicate a comparable price. However, the 14 and 15 (P's I'm referring to) are common and affordable in grades 63-64. I rarely even see the 18, though.

Disclaimer: I believe that over the past 7 years of collecting these I have learned a lot and have therefore become more discerning. That could be contributing to my inability to find "good " examples. Looking at some of my early purchases, I see that I probably would not have made them now.

I look forward to your observations and comments. I will be going to a coin show in Baltimore in a week or two and I am hoping to hunt down 1 or 2 of these.
Bedrock of the Community
United States
19337 Posts
 Posted 11/02/2019  09:38 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add just carl to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I wonder if anyone will ever start calling them Bison Nickels. Bisons are not Buffalos.
So many have the dates worn off that I doubt anyone could ever guess at what is really available for any dates. Popularity of that coin makes it difficult also to accurately come up with real prices.
just carl
Bedrock of the Community
United States
17900 Posts
 Posted 11/02/2019  09:57 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add moxking to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Since you already collect TPG coins, that's not something you are unfamiliar with.

You make no mention of the census for NGC and PCGS which will give you much better comparison figures than the mintage ever could.

Yes, those numbers aren't perfect (resubmitted) but they are the most accurate numbers we have to work with - MUCH better than mintage figures.

For prices, Heritage SOLD, Great Collections SOLD, and Stacks sold (in that order of preference) will give you a wealth of knowledge absolutely free with the best monetary comparisons you could hope for.

You will very quickly find that the numerical grade counts for about 60% of the value while eye appeal captures the other 40%.

Plus, once you get into the 64 range you begin competing with registered collectors and the price jumps become monstrous based on one point.

No offence, but you might consider the "new approach" to collecting. Mintage figures and eBay sales are very limiting for truly tough coins (less than 200 combined census).
Valued Member
United States
409 Posts
 Posted 11/02/2019  11:40 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add johnny676767 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Moxking- understood but perhaps I worded my questions incorrectly. I am not sure what "approach" you are referring to. I was simply relating my experience of looking for these coins, be it online or in person. I have looked at population reports but perhaps could look further. I also review Heritage Auctions. All of that is irrelevant as to the "why" question I asked. This was not a post to ask how to collect although you do bring up some good tips that could be of benefit to collectors.

I, rather, was asking for personal experience and any firsthand tips collectors of this particular series may provide.

For example, the question about why there are seemingly many examples of the 31s but not so much for the 24. Population being what it is the 24 in grades 63-64 is not as readily available as the 31s. Why? The answer "because there aren't as many according to population reports" doesn't really get to the root answer. Perhaps no one knows, but perhaps someone has some insight as to why these populations and their availability are what they are. Take the 38 as another example: low mintage but tons of available examples in 64-66. Why? My guess is that year had a really strong strike and it was the last year of the series, so the public and collectors held a few rolls.

Hopefully, that clears up the intention of the original post.

Pillar of the Community
United States
618 Posts
 Posted 11/02/2019  3:16 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add JJuliano to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Maybe the Depression had something to do with survival rates. People probably saved every nickel(and other currency) they could. The 20's on the other hand was a time of prosperity and thus a lot of spending. Just a thought. I could be all washed up about it.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
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Valued Member
62 Posts
 Posted 11/02/2019  5:07 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add BCTokens to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I only collect Buffalo nickels informally, so am not an expert. I believe that the reason for the differences has to do with the tendency of people to save the unusual. That is why, generally, the first year of issue of a coin is much easier to find in high grades than subsequent years. People see a new coin design and hang on to it.

As to the 31s, the Lincoln cent shows the same pattern as the Buffalo nickel: relatively expensive in low grades, relatively cheap in high grades. I believe that it was known at the time that the mintages were low, so these coins were hoarded.

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United States
1409 Posts
 Posted 11/02/2019  7:28 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add fortcollins to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The Buff series is both enjoyable and frustrating. Many things contribute to those emotions.
Strike quality varied dramatically by mint and by year. Weakly struck coins emulate circulation wear.
All three mints overused the dies and swapped out worn dies one at a time, rather than as die pairs. This resulted in ugly strikes and coins with badly mismatched appearances.
The cluttered design, frequent die clashes, and resulting overpolishing reduced the number of well struck and eye-pleasing coins.
Frequent obverse design changes attempted to reduce wear on the date, ribbon, and LIBERTY. The date never was protected sufficiently, and weak/partial date coins abound.
Many dates have condition rarity, common AG-VF and brutal to locate above VF. This is where mintage figures are irrelevant. (For example, 1920-D had a high mintage, but AU-UNC specimens are hard to locate and quite pricey.)
The basic series (minus the two DDOs and the 3- and 3 1/2-leg varieties) is fairly easy to complete in lower grades. The twin difficulties of higher grades and strike quality quickly make the challenge difficult.
All of the above make grading the Buffs a real challenge. The mid-grades (F-VF-EF) are always hotly debated, and TPG coins are not immune from these issues.
The two DDOs are set stoppers in higher grades. Most collectors have to settle for lower grades for the DDOs (like me) or elect to skip them when building a set.
Prices for Buffs have fluctuated wildly over time. Given the high prices for some of the condition rarity dates (e.g., 1918-S, 1919-D and S, and 1920-D and S), the prospect of losing $200-$300 per coin quickly deters many from making the attempt to build a set.

Just a few thoughts from the peanut gallery.
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