Interesting Facts about the Buffalo Nickel:
-- The 1913-1938 Buffalo nickel was designed by the famous sculptor James E. Fraser, who later helped create the U.S. 1926-1939 Oregon Trail half dollar (regarded as the most beautiful coin in America's commemorative series). Fraser grew up on the South Dakota prairie, where buffalo and Native Americans once roamed freely but had all but vanished from view in the course of his life.
-- It was the last and most realistic Indian Head coin struck for American commerce. Shown is a composite portrait of three aged Indian chiefs: Chief John Big Tree, a Seneca; Chief Two Moons, a Cheyenne; and Chief Iron Tail, a Sioux.
-- "Buffalo" is a misnomer for the reverse: actually, it's a bison modeled on "Black Diamond" of the New York Central Park Zoo. The image was so popular that after the animal was butchered, "Black Diamond" steaks sold at the then unheard-of price of $2 a lb. Diamond Jim Brady said "name your price" for the mounted head, but was refused.
-- As a sculptor, Fraser preferred to get as much raised relief as possible into his magnificent new designs. For the original type released in 1913, he sculpted a raised mound below the buffalo (or bison). But bank managers quickly complained that it was impossible to stack the new nickel properly. The Mint promptly recalled this first-year Type I, creating a collector scarcity. Type II substituted a flat line for the raised mound late in 1913; the 1913 Denver and San Francisco Type II issues are even scarcer than the originals.