How Much is a 1938 Buffalo Nickel Worth? (Price Chart)

The US Mint produced two nickel types in 1938. Buffalo nickel was minted until October 1938, when the Jefferson nickel production started. Both coins are now worth more than their face value, but the final 1938 nickel value primarily depends on scarcity. While classic Buffalo nickel design is trendy nowadays, collectors don’t appreciate Jefferson nickels, so their price is considerably lower.

1938 Buffalo Nickel

Designer and engraver James Earle Fraser created a beautiful Buffalo (Indian head) nickel minted from 1913 until October 3, 1938.

A Native American you can see on the obverse is a composition of a few real Indian tribal chiefs the designer met in his life. Although no one can say that an American Buffalo on the coin reverse is a particular animal, many believe it is Black Diamond from the New York City Zoo.

1938 Buffalo nickel

Location Year Minted Value
Denver 1938 D 7,020,000 $
Denver 1938 D on S N/A $
Total / 7,020,000 /

The first variety of this coin featured the buffalo standing on a mound’s top, with words FIVE CENTS above it. Unfortunately, such a design caused the denomination to wear off quickly, so mints changed it halfway through 1913.

1938 Buffalo nickel

Face value 5 cents ($0.05)
Compound 75% copper and 25% nickel
Coin weight 0.1764 ounces (5 g)
Coin diameter 0.8346 inches (21.2 mm)
Coin thickness 0.0768 inches (1.95 mm)
Shape Round
Edge Plain

However, the problem with date wear remained, so the Mint replaced Buffalo nickel with the Jefferson nickel after 25 years of unsuccessful attempts to adjust the design.

 

1938 Jefferson Nickel

1938 Jefferson Nickel

Felix Schlag designed Jefferson nickel, and its pre-war composition is collectible nowadays. You can see Thomas Jefferson on the coin obverse and Monticello, his mountaintop home in Virginia on the reverse.

1938 Jefferson nickel

Location Year Minted Value
Philadelphia 1938 19,496,000
Philadelphia 1938 proof 19,365
San Francisco 1938 S 4,105,000 $
Denver 1938 D 5,376,000 $
Total / 28,996,365 /

Jefferson is one of the crucial people in American history as one of the Founding Fathers, an author of the Declaration of Independence, and the 3rd President of the US.

1938 Jefferson nickel

Face value 5 cents ($0.05)
Compound 75% copper and 25% nickel
Coin weight 0.1764 ounces (5 g)
Coin diameter 0.8346 inches (21.2 mm)
Coin thickness 0.0768 inches (1.95 mm)
Shape Round
Edge Plain

You should know that this nickel has been produced since October 3, 1938, until now. However, its value depends on the minting year.

For instance, all of them have the same metal composition, but those produced from 1938 to 1946 are worth more than their melt value due to scarcity.

 

1938 Nickel Types

In 1938, three mints produced these two nickels. While those from the Buffalo series minted only the Denver mint, you can find three types of coins from the Jefferson series, made in:

  • Philadelphia minted Jefferson nickels without a particular mint mark
  • San Francisco minted Jefferson nickels with an S mint mark
  • Denver minted Jefferson nickels with a D mint mark

1938 Nickel value*

Quality Buffalo series Jefferson series
  1938 D 1938 D on S 1938 1938 S 1938 D
Good $3.8 $6 $0.22 $0.55 $0.32
Very good $4.4 $8.9 $0.27 $1.4 $0.82
Fine $5 $11 $0.32 $1.95 $1.39
Very fine $5.3 $16 $0.55 $2.75 $1.67
Extra fine $5.5 $22 $1.11 $3.22 $2.22
AU $8.9 $35 $1.67 $3.8 $3.22
MS 60 $24 $61 $3.22 $5 $7.7
MS 63 $40 $89 $20 $19 $16
Proof PR 65 / / $137 / /

*by USA Coin book

 

1938 D Buffalo nickel

1938 D Buffalo nickel

Only the Denver mint produced Buffalo nickels that final year of its production, without proof coins. With a mintage of 7,020,000, these nickels are not scarce nowadays, but their prices have been stable over the last several years. You can buy one for approximately 1$ to $7, while pieces in a mint state will typically cost you $35.

1938 Nickel value

Year Quality
Good Fine Extra fine Uncirculated
Buffalo series by Coinflation
1938 D $0.75 to $1.25 $1.25 to $1.5 $3 to $3.5 $12+
Buffalo series by COIN HelpU
1938 D $3 $8 $13 $19 to $43
1938 D on S $5 $11 $21 $52 to $143
Buffalo series by Hobbizine
1938 D $2.85 $5.7 $7.6 $9.5 to $71
1938 D on S $5.7 $11.4 $19 $33.25 to $190

 

1938 Jefferson nickel without a mint mark

1938 Jefferson nickel without a mint mark

The 1938 Jefferson nickel price is in a range of 10 cents to $1, depending on two things:

  • The coin condition
  • If you have a piece with Full Steps, where the building steps are fully struck

Jefferson series

Year by COIN HelpU by Coinflation by Hobbizine
1938 $4.75 $0.45 to $11 $0.25 to $8
1938 S $0.25 to $3.8 $1.5 to $22 $1.25 to $8
1938 D $0.13 to $4 $0.8 to $20 $0.9 to $7.5

You can expect to get about $2+ for an uncirculated coin. However, certified MS 63 pieces can be worth $7, while rare MS 67 Jefferson nickels can be costly. Such a coin can reach a price of $1,000 at auction.

 

1938 proof Jefferson nickel

1938 proof Jefferson nickel

As usual, any of the 19,365 Jefferson proofs minted in 1938 are worth more than regular coins, and the value of an uncirculated piece will vary, depending on its quality. You can expect to get:

  • $34 for PR 60 nickel
  • $38 for PR 61 nickel
  • $54 for PR 62 nickel
  • $68 for PR 63 nickel
  • $100 for PR 64 nickel
  • $115 for PR 65 nickel
  • $143 for PR 66 nickel
  • $422 for PR 67 nickel

The auction record goes to a PCGS graded 1938 PR 67 Jefferson proof nickel sold in 2001 for an impressive $5,980.

On the other hand, 1938 proof Jefferson nickel with a cameo-contrast surface is a real rarity. Such a piece is costly, so you need to set aside thousands of dollars to get one:

  • PR 66 CAN is worth $2,500
  • PR 67 CAN is worth $6,250

1938 S Jefferson nickel

1938 S Jefferson nickel
Image

The San Francisco mint produced 4,105,000 Jefferson nickels in 1938, but only about half of the mintage survived. As a result, it is the rarest piece made that year for circulation.

1938 Nickel value*

Year Quality
Good Fine Extra fine Uncirculated
Buffalo series
1938 D $3.5 $4.5 $5 $8
Jefferson series
1938 / / $1 $1.5
1938 S / / $3 $3.5
1938 D / / $2 $3

*by JM Bullion

Most of these pieces are worth $3 to $5, but you can get $8 for nickel in an uncirculated condition. The higher price ever paid for a 1938 S Jefferson nickel is $9,200 for PCGS certified, MS 67 Full Steps piece.

 

1938 D Jefferson nickel

1938 D Jefferson nickel
Image

Even though the Denver mint produced 5,376,000 Jefferson nickels in 1938, this coin is highly scarce in circulation nowadays. However, you will need to pay only $2 to $3 for a piece in a circulated condition, while uncirculated specimens are worth approximately $6.

1938 Nickel value*

Year Quality
Good Fine Extra fine Uncirculated
Buffalo series
1938 D $1.25 $2.25 $3.8 $19
Jefferson series
1938 / / / $4.75
1938 S $0.25 $0.5 $1.25 $3.8
1938 D $0.13 $0.4 $1 $4

*by CoinStudy

The auction record is $4,993.75 paid in 2014 for a PCGS certified 1938 Jefferson nickel in MS 67+ condition with Full Steps.

 

1938 Nickel Rarities

1938 Nickel Rarities

1938 D over S Buffalo nickel

As for the Buffalo coin, only a few 1938 D over S nickels are available on the market nowadays. This error occurred when the Denver mint stuck a D letter over an S mint mark.

You can see a small piece of the S inside the D, while one tiny corner protrudes out of the letter D upper-right side.

Jefferson nickel

Re-punched mint mark – It is a 1938 nickel with a re-punched mint mark with a slightly different location. Most of these coins are not rare, but they are always collectible and are usually worth $3 to $5.

Off-center strike – This 1938 nickel with off-center strikes is a coin made with the bit misaligned dies. An off-centered nickel is usually worthy, and you need to pay more than $100 for a piece without half of the design but a complete date.

Die clashes – A 1938 nickel with die clashes occurs after the obverse and reverse dies hit each other without a blank coin placed in between. In such a case, design parts often transfer from one die to another. Coins made with such damaged dies can be worth $3 to $20, depending on the die clashes levels.

Full Steps – Some collectors consider Jefferson nickels minted in San Francisco and Denver mints semi-key coins in this series. However, the real rarity is the Full Steps nickels with the 5 or 6 steps at the Monticello’s base on the coin reverse.

You can see them untouched only on coins in a mint state without any signs of wear. There are two types of these coins, including:

  • Newly minted nickels from an uncirculated coin roll set
  • Pieces from an old mint state Jefferson nickels’ roll

 

Summary

1938 is a unique year when it comes to nickels since the US Mint produced two nickel types. Therefore, you can find Buffalo nickels minted until October 3, 1938, and Jefferson nickels produced since that day. Both coins are collectible but inexpensive, making them an excellent option for novices and collectors on the budget.

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