Centered under “FIVE CENTS” on commemorative nickels reverse. Philadelphia Mint specimens lack mint mark.
The Buffalo nickel or Indian Head nickel is a copper-nickel five-cent piece that was struck by the United States Mint from 1913 to 1938. As part of a drive to beautify the coinage, five denominations of US coins had received new designs between 1907 and 1909. In 1911, Taft administration officials decided to replace Charles E. Despite attempts by the Mint to adjust the design, the coins proved to strike indistinctly, and to be subject to wear—the dates were easily worn away in circulation. In 1938, after the expiration of the minimum 25-year period during which the design could not be replaced without congressional authorization, it was replaced by the Jefferson nickel, designed by Felix Schlag. In 1883, the Liberty Head nickel was issued, featuring designs by Mint Engraver Charles E. President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 expressed his dissatisfaction with the artistic state of the American coinage, and hoped to hire sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign all the coins.
Andrew was dissatisfied with the just-issued Lincoln cent, and considered seeking congressional authorization to replace the cent with a design by sculptor James Earle Fraser. A letter to him by his son may have been the genesis of the Buffalo nickel. A little matter that seems to have been overlooked by all of you is the opportunity to beautify the design of the nickel or five cent piece during your administration, and it seems to me that it would be a permanent souvenir of a most attractive sort. Fraser, who had been an assistant to Saint-Gaudens, approached the Mint, and rapidly produced concepts and designs. In July 1912, word of the new design became publicly known, and coin-operated machine manufacturers sought information. However, Clarence Hobbs of the Hobbs Manufacturing Company, of Worcester, Massachusetts requested further information.
Afterwards, Roberts asked Fraser if the Hobbs Company was content with the design. The sculptor told the Mint director that the firm wanted changes made, and Fraser agreed to meet with them further. Objections by his firm delayed the Buffalo nickel for months. Despite the apparent agreement, the Hobbs Company continued to interpose objections. Reith, who had attended the trial striking, had been given all the time and facilities he had asked for in testing the new pieces, and the mechanic had pronounced himself satisfied.