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An Underrated Buffalo: The 1918-S

1918-S Buffalo NickelTo collectors unfamiliar with the Buffalo nickel series, the 1918-S Buffalo issue might appear as “just another mintmarked date” from fairly early in the series. But in truth, the 1918-S is among the most challenging S-mint emissions from the teens.

In the PCGS Registry Set Composition which provides a numeric point value between 1 and 10 for each Buffalo issue, the 1918-S has a value of eight points, the second highest of any regular issue in the series.

Other issues in the series given an eight-point value include the 1919-S, the 1923-S, 1924-S, and 1927-S; in other words, some of the most difficult issues in the series (and not entirely coincidentally, all S-mints.) The only Buffalo nickel issues given a higher nine-point rating by PCGS are the 1920-S and 1926-S. By way of comparison, the 1913-S Type Two–generally acknowledged as a key issue but occasionally found in nice high Mint State, is given a six-point rating.

The elusive nature of high-grade 1918-S Buffalo nickels is the product of a confluence of factors. Produced during the last year of World War I, the 1918-S was the victim of economic measures, in more ways than one. In order to save dies and prolong their life, the dies were, for the most part, set too far apart to deliver strong blows to the coins. As David Lange explains in his Complete Guide to Buffalo Nickels (third edition, 2006):

“This was done as a economy measure to reduce wear on both the dies and press and to thus extend their useful life. Such economy was practiced even more vigorously during the 1920s, as the budgets of most governmental departments were slashed by the parsimonious Harding and Coolidge administrations.

“The Buffalo Nickel was a coin of relatively high relief, and it did take quite a toll on the dies. These wore rapidly, and such erosion is often evident on the actual coins. The reverse dies in particular were used too long, as they didn’t need to be discarded at the end of each calendar year. The combination of increased die-set distances and worn dies produced the mushy, disappointing coins so often seen in this series.”

The Coin Pictured here ( 1918-S 5C MS66 ) will be avaialble at Heritage’s Dallas Auction on October 23-25

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RSS Feed for This Post1 Comment(s)

  1. Andrew Weldon | Oct 5, 2008 | Reply

    I have a 1794 liberty cap starred reverse large cent and it also has a double die obverse the date
    has a double 1 in it.I want to know how much it is worth and to found out exactly what variety it is
    of all the known varieties so I can find out it’s true worth and sell the coin.If I were to grade it
    with out knowing what variety it is I would grade it between vf to extra fine according to guide in coin books.I was told by a few coin shops that whole sale it was worth between 15 to 30 thousand
    dollars but that was with out them seeing the coin and or knowing exactly what variety it is.
    You can clearly see the entire front of the coin the word Liberty the entire bust and the date and on the reverse you can see all the words United States of America and the wreath,the 1 over the 100 and the stars.
    The coin is of the more silver color and has some
    indents in its surface.Other than that it has normal wear.I noticed a picture of a 1793 liberty cap of the same color that sold for 600 thousand.
    I’m very skeptical of the coin dealers in my area and do not want to get ripped off on the value of this coin.
    Can you please possible guide me to the right place
    to have this coin graded and to see what variety it is so I know the real value of it.

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