An important part of value with any old coin is condition. You can judge the condition of your old nickel yourself by following the How to Video - Grading Buffalo Nickels. Dates and mintmarks are only a part of the value process. Recognize the better grade coins to find accurately how much they are worth.
A clear bold date indicates a higher grade; ample detail along the buffalo's back also indicates a high grade. Compare your old nickels to those highlighted in the video, determine the grade of your coin and an accurate value.
Combine the grading video above with the descriptions and close-up images that follow and you can sharpen your grading skills. Take your time... grading Buffalo nickels is a process, run through it a couple of times for the best results. The difference in grades become apparent quickly.
Collectors strive to own these rare condition coins. The uncirculated grade describes a Buffalo nickel with no wear from use. As you rotate the coin under a light, surface wear would appear as breaks in luster, first evident just below the eye of the Indian. Note: A single light source is helpful in bringing out the radiating effect of luster.
Cheek of the Indian must retain luster.
Hair above the tie for the braid is still covered in original mint frost.
Also subject to early wear, check for signs of wear (dulling) along top of hair.
Buffalo's hip is free of wear, no signs of color change to its surface.
Along the top of his back is lustrous.
Prone to wear, the head above the horn must retain luster.
Extremely Fine Condition
Grading Buffalo nickels that have begun to wear is a matter of judging the amount of metal removed from the surface. A coin in the "extremely fine" grade show very minor loss of metal. Although wear is noticeable, it still appears sharp and crisp to reach this grade.
Wear is evident across most of the Indian's hair but areas of smoothness do not connect.
Top of head remains with ample detail.
The ribbon holding the feathers only shows a slight flatness to its contours.
The Buffalo's hip shows a small but distinct flat spot with minor loss of roundness.
An area of slight wear is visible across his back and extending to the front leg.
Fur on the Buffalo's head is smooth just above the horn.
Also a collectible grade for a Buffalo nickel, many dates, especially the early years are worth a premium. In the "fine" grade your coin has a worn but pleasing appearance. With a full bold date and legends separated from the rim, clearly a strong candidate for the fine grade.
Hair above the braid, despite an overall flatness, still shows some separation of strands.
The edge of the feather is just beginning to merge with the hair.
Grading Buffalo nickels is somewhat subjective, however if there is a clear definition from the Indian's cheek and hair your coin is a strong candidate for the fine grade.
Fur on the Buffalo's head is mostly missing, although a partial horn must remain.
Much of the detail of the front leg is flat and beginning to connect with his shoulder.
In the "fine" grade the roundness of the hip is now flat and merged with the tip of the tail.
This Buffalo nickel represents a coin that fits solidly in the "good" grade. Overall heavy wear has taken a toll on the finer details; however the boldness of the design allows the deeper recesses to remain. Notice that despite a lack of the finer details, complete outlines of the Indian and Buffalo are visible. Also lettering on both the obverse and reverse is also readable.
Wear covers the entire portrait of the Indian blending the hair, cheek and parts of the feathers.
Often a couple of the digits of the date are partially obscured but to reach the good grade it must be readable.
Tops of the letters of "Liberty" have merged with the rim.
Most of the fur detail is now gone on the head of the Buffalo, as well as the shoulder and back.
The horn is completely missing with perhaps a small portion of the base remaining.
Lettering of the legend is weak with some merging with the rim.
Accurate Grading Buffalo Nickles = Value
Approach the judging of condition conservatively to realize a fair value. Grading Buffalo nickels is subjective, especially from the point of view of the seller and the point of view of the buyer. Follow the elements outlined above in the video, images and descriptions. Very soon many of the subtle differences in condition become easier to recognize and grade.