You’ve probably heard of – or have even seen – the buffalo nickel, a coin produced from 1913 to 1938. The coin features the profile of an American Indian on one side, and a buffalo on the other. It was designed by the popular sculptor James Earle Fraser.
This coin was an attempt to beautify coinage; at the time, more than one person thought current currency was not the prettiest. Also, a law said that the design of currency could not be changed for at least 25 years. But it was the nickel’s time to be redesigned, and many people in political office thought a redesign was sorely needed.
Fraser said this about the design:
“When I was asked to do a nickel, I felt I wanted to do something totally American – a coin that could not be mistaken for any other country’s coin. It occurred to me that the buffalo, as part of our western background, was 100% American, and that our North American Indian fitted into the picture perfectly.”
Unfortunately, the buffalo nickels wore down easily. The year on the coins rubbed off quickly and the coins did not stay in good grades even after a short period of use.
After 25 years, the buffalo nickel was replaced with the Jefferson nickel.