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Amazingly Well-Preserved
MS66 1937-D Three-Legged Buffalo Nickel

1937-D 5C Three-Legged MS66 PCGS. FS-901, formerly FS-020.2. For a key-date issue as perennially popular as is the 1937-D Three-Legged Buffalo, it is also perennially mystifying how few collectors bother to learn the characteristics of genuine examples. Although the record for numbers of popular coins that are counterfeited likely belongs to the 1916-D Mercury dime, there are also considerable numbers of bogus 1937-D Three-Legged Buffalos floating around the marketplace "raw" or uncertified.
The easiest way to create a counterfeit Three-Legged Buffalo, of course, is to remove portions of the front leg from a "regular" 1937-D nickel--but that will produce a coin that still lacks most of the characteristics of the Three-Legged Buffalo. Just a single pair of dies was used to strike this variety. Among the many key diagnostics to look for on a genuine coin are these:

Obverse: Rust pits, flaws, and die crack. Although few of the references mention it, this issue always shows patches of roughness on the obverse, apparently created from die rust. One patch is on the top of the Indian's neck, just below the juncture with the hair. Another shows to the left of the longest feather about midway down, in the hair. Other patches are just above the obverse rim at 6 o'clock, and on the front of the neck, beneath the jawline. A small die crack runs southeast through this patch, with a small, comma-shaped lump near its lowest point.
Reverse: Beard, hoof and leg, die lumps, spindly rear leg. The reverse of a genuine 1937-D Three-Legged Buffalo also has numerous diagnostics that are easy to spot. The buffalo's beard is pointed, and longer on the right (facing) side than the left. Although a Mint employee removed the front leg with an emery board, the hoof is still present. There is a stream of raised die lumps running downward between the front and rear legs. The rear right leg of the buffalo has a spindly, sickly look, as does the hoof on the other rear leg. The overall buffalo is a bit smaller than normal, and there are heavy metal flow lines at various points.

This is a lovely, lightly toned Premium Gem coin, boasting soft, silver-gold toning accented on both sides by jade-green and lilac. Although most specimens of this variety are lackluster at best, due to the eroded state of the dies that diffused the luster, this piece offers considerable luster that verges on "cartwheel," more so on the reverse than the obverse. This essentially unimprovable piece is one of four so graded at PCGS, while NGC has certified a single piece finer, an MS67 (3/09).
From The Joseph C. Thomas Collection.(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# 22SX, PCGS# 3982)

View all of [The Joseph C. Thomas Collection, Part Two ]

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Auction Dates
Apr-May, 2009
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 7
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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