The 3 legged Buffalo Nickel: A Happy Mistake

Posted by Derek Sawchenko on

Previously, we learned all about the brilliant design of the American Gold Buffalo, now it’s time to learn about this design's most interesting edition. This brings us to the 1937 D 3 legged Buffalo Nickel. In 1937, a young, fairly inexperienced Denver mint employees, Mr. Young, was told to use James E. Fraser’s design to make Buffalo Nickels. Whilst attempting to create this coin, somehow, the coin feeder which sends blank planchets to the coin press failed to feed any blank planchets to the press. This allowed the two dies for this coin to clash and receive impressions of each other.  When this occurred, under pressure, Mr. Young tried to use an emery board to attempt to polish off any evidence of the dies clashing, instead of following normal procedure and simple switching the dies. This led to the minting of one of the most interesting coins the country has ever seen. Because Mr. Young over-polished the dies, he had accidentally removed the details of the bison’s front right leg from the reverse of the die. All coins struck with this damaged die were then missing bison’s front right leg. Thousands of these coins were struck and circulated before inspectors picked up on the error, making this one of the best known and harder to find error coins in the United States.   

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