How Much is a 1920 Buffalo Nickel Worth? (Price Chart)

Nickels with an Indian head on the obverse have historical and numismatic value, and many collectors enjoy adding them to their collections. The US mints struck these coins from 1913 to 1938, making the whole series well-known as the Buffalo nickels set.

As always, the coin grade is the vital determinant of the value, but some key dates and errors from this collection can be worth more. Let’s check the 1920 nickel value and how pricey are rarities produced that year.

1920 Buffalo Nickel History

Buffalo nickel’s history begins almost ten years before their first issue, in 1904. That year, President Theodore Roosevelt decided that the US Mint should redesign and embellish several American coins.

Since the US law requires each coin to circulate at least for 25 years, it wasn’t until 1912 that designer James Earle Fraser created a replacement for Liberty Head nickel.

1920 Buffalo nickel

Location Year Minted
Philadelphia 1920 63,093,000
San Francisco 1920 S 9,689,000
Denver 1920 D 9,418,000
Total / 82,200,000

According to several sources, Fraser wanted to design a coin showing the most significant American motives. Therefore, you can see the right-facing Native American chief on the obverse, giving the entire collection a name Indian head nickels.

Interestingly, Fraser picked three chiefs and combined their portraits into one figure. The coin represents the facial features of Iron tail, John Big Tree, and Two Moons. The obverse also contains the engraving LIBERTY and the issue date.

1920 Buffalo nickel

Face value $0.05
Compound 75% copper with added nickel
Coin weight 0.17637 ounces (5 g)
Coin diameter 0.83465 inches (21.2 mm)
Coin thickness 0.07677 inches (1.95 mm)
Shape Round
Edge Reeded

Many numismatists name this coin the Buffalo nickel because of the American bison on the reverse. The design is rich in details as well as the obverse. The buffalo facing left stands on a bunch of dirt.

You can see two writings on the coin, including the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the traditional motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. The five-cent denomination is placed below the buffalo, along with the mint mark you can find in nickels struck in two of the three mints.

1920 Buffalo nickel value*

Quality 1920 1920 S 1920 D
Good $1.7 $5.1 $5.9
Very good $2.8 $13 $5.9
Fine $3.3 $31 $9.3
Very fine $7.9 $112 $13
Extra fine $16 $217 $29
AU $34 $343 $75
MS 60 $74 $631 $136
MS 65 $162 $1,981 $344

*by USA Coin book

The fun fact is that the Buffalo design is so aesthetic that the US Mint used it several times after this series. The most famous is the American Buffalo, a 50-dollar coin made of pure 24-carat gold.

 

1920 Buffalo Nickel Types

As I have already mentioned, the mints produced Buffalo nickels for 25 years, but they rarely struck proofs. In fact,  the entire series had only seven proof nickels. There were no proof coins in 1920.

Nevertheless, there are three other nickel types minted that year, and all of them are worth much more than their denomination. In most cases, you can quickly find a coin in a low grade for $1.5 to $8, depending on the mint mark.

1920 Buffalo nickel no mint mark

1920 Buffalo nickel no mint mark
Image

Three US mints, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver, struck 82,200,000 nickels in 1920. This mintage was way higher than other dates, and the Philadelphia mint produced the most, little over 63 million coins.

1920 Buffalo nickel value*

Year Quality
Good Fine Extra fine Uncirculated
1920 $1.5 $3 $14 $30
1920 S $4.5 $28 $200 $300
1920 D $8 $32 $275 $325

*by JM Bullion

The mint mark is a vital detail when it comes to 1920 nickel. None of the nickels produced in Philadelphia have it because this mint started using the P letter on their coins in 1980. The record value for 1920 MS 67 nickel is $12,650.

1920 S Buffalo nickel

1920 S Buffalo nickel

The San Francisco mint struck 9,689,000 nickels in 1920. Each has the S mint mark on the reverse, under the denomination. This coin has a high value, especially in higher grades.

1920 Buffalo nickel value*

Quality 1920 1920 S 1920 D
Good $0.9 $2.6 $5.6
Very good $1.3 $4.2 $5.6
Fine $2.2 $5 $5.6
Very fine $3.8 / /
Extra fine $7.4 / /
AU $14 / /

*by Numista

Most novices are satisfied with specimens with low ratings since they are more affordable. The 1920 S Buffalo nickel rated as fine is typically worth between $20 and $30, depending on the coin dealer.

1920 Buffalo nickel value*

Year Quality
Good Fine Extra fine Uncirculated
1920 $0.7 $2.2 $10.4 $67
1920  S $3 $16 $121 $459
1920  D $6.1 $26 $172 $406

*by CoinStudy

On the other hand, lucky owners of a few 1920 nickels in the mint state can count on a decent amount of money once they decide to sell them. For instance, the auction record for one beautiful piece was $44,563 in 2007.

1920 D Buffalo nickel

1920 D Buffalo nickel

Many numismatists prefer 1920 nickel with the D mint mark over other types. That letter indicates that the coin is one of 9,418,000 produced in the Denver mint.

1920 Buffalo nickel value*

Quality 1920 1920 S 1920 D
Good $1.50 $5 $9
Very good $2.5 $12 $19
Fine $3 $21 $46
Very fine $9 $76 $98
Extra fine $18 $155 $180
AU 50 $58 $282 $366
MS 63 $124 $1,849 $1,028
MS 65 $567 $11,931 $4,240

*by COIN HelpU

An uncirculated 1920 D nickel often reaches several hundred dollars. Moreover, one piece in MS 66 grade reached an incredible $138,000 at auction in 2008.

 

1920 Buffalo Nickel Rarities

1920 Buffalo Nickel Rarities

The 1920 Buffalo nickel series had no significant errors and rarities, unlike some other dates. Still, you can find a DDO 1920 nickel from time to time, as well as those with die cracks and chips.

There are a few scarce off-center specimens, but they are almost impossible to find. In rare cases, when they appear on the market, these coins can reach over a thousand dollars.

You can also find several 1920 nickels with lamination planchet mint errors. Unfortunately, this variety doesn’t drastically raise the coin value because error nickels sell for about $30.

 

1920 Buffalo Nickel Grading

1920 Buffalo Nickel Grading

No matter how beautiful the 1920 Indian head nickel’s design is, it came with some flaws. The buffalo on the reverse is elevated relative to the rest of the coin field, causing the denomination to quickly wear out during circulation.

The same problem exists with the date on the coin obverse. As a result, there are many circulated Buffalo nickels with the unreadable year. Experienced numismatists can determine coin grades based on a few other key details.

Uncirculated – The design is almost flawless in nickels in the mint state, and the original luster is still there.

You can notice all fine lines around the Indian cheek and eyebags on the obverse, while the feathers in his hair are highly-detailed. Plus, the buffalo horn and delicate fur lines on the reverse are intact.

1920 Buffalo nickel value*

Date Quality
Good Fine Extra fine Uncirculated
1920 $1.5 to $2 $2.5 to $3 $11 to $12 $40+
1920 S $2 to $2 $20 to $22 $125 to $135 $375+
1920 D $5 to $6 $22 to $24 $165 to $175 $450+

*by Coinflation

Extra fine – This coin went through several hands before becoming part of a collection. Most of the details are still undamaged, with a somewhat flat area around the Indian eye. The coin reverse shows smoothness on the bison’s back, while all letters and numbers are readable and clearly separated.

Fine – On this coin, the feathers on the Indian’s hair are visibly merged with a surrounding area. The mint date starts to fade, but you can still recognize numbers and read all the engravings. The buffalo figure is smooth, and its horn is almost entirely invisible.

1920 Buffalo nickel value

Quality 1920 1920 S 1920 D
Good $1.4 $3.8 $6.6
Very good $2.4 $11.4 $19
Fine $2.8 $28.5 $33.2
Very fine $7.6 $95 $120
Extra fine $14.3 $190 $260
Uncirculated $28.5 $285 $310
Brilliant uncirculated $57 $500 $545

*By Hobbizine

Good – This nickel is heavily damaged because of spending years in use. The original luster is gone, and you can see many scratches and blemishes on the surface. All hairlines on the chief’s head are missing, and the word LIBERTY merges with the coin rim.

The last two digits in the date are often unreadable, while numbers 1 and 9 are smooth and barely visible. The buffalo on the reverse is still there, but all crucial details are gone. The coin surface is almost flat, and the remaining letters merge with the coin rim.

 

Summary

The 1920 Buffalo nickel value far exceeds its denomination, and it is possible to find it with a starting price of several dollars. Specimens in the mint state are unbelievably hard to get and are often worth hundreds of dollars. Nickels with D and S mint marks are typically worth more than those produced in Philadelphia.

1 thought on “How Much is a 1920 Buffalo Nickel Worth? (Price Chart)”

  1. I believe I have a 1920 D over S? Is this a variety? It’s very clear the D is over something but the S looks too large compared to other coins that have this mint error. Therefore, I’m curious is this a known variety or not? Thanks!!

    Reply

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