Interesting facts: The technical aspects of the design were a departure from those of former years in that the fields, instead of being smooth and highly polished, were left with a matte or slightly pebbled appearance. This gave the coins a more rugged or natural appearance.
In 1913 the Liberty Head nickel, which had remained in service since 1883 was replaced by a new design, the so-called Buffalo (more properly, the Indian) nickel by James E. Fraser, a well-known sculptor. Fraser wanted to model the design on images that he considered characteristically American. The obverse portrait was modeled from life by studying three Indian models, while the reverse was styled from a bison, popularly called “Black Diamond,” at New York Central Park Zoo.
The reverse shows a bison standing on a raised mound, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and E PLURIBUS UNUM above, and FIVE CENTS on a mound below. It was found that the relief of the mound caused the inscription in that area to wear quickly, so the bottom part of the reverse was subsequently redesigned, creating the so-called Type II. The Type I is distinguished by the presence of a mound with FIVE CENTS inscribed on it, as noted. While this new placement helped preserve the words, nothing was done to protect the date on the obverse. Hence, many no-date Buffalo nickels exist today, on which every detail remains except for the one that indicates the year of mintage.
Production of business strikes was accomplished at Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco, with Philadelphia registering by far the largest mintage. At Philadelphia, 1,250 Matte Proof examples were made for collectors.
Obverse: The obverse depicts the head of an Indian facing right, with LIBERTY in small letters at the upper right edge, and the date at the lower left.
Reverse: The reverse shows a bison standing on a raised mound, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and E PLURIBUS UNUM above, and FIVE CENTS on a mound below.
Overall: Examples of the 1913 Type I Buffalo nickel are readily available up through the MS66 grade. MS67 examples are scarce but not rare, but thMS68 examples are exceedingly rare. Matte Proofs have survived in relatively few numbers, and of the 1,250 minted, probably not more than a few hundred still exist. As certain business strikes closely resemble Matte Proofs, care is to be taken when buying one of these. Yet another reason to buy certified coins only. Proof 65 and 66 examples are scarce, proof 67 examples are rare, and only a couple proof 68 examples are known.