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    Description

    1937-D Three-Legged Nickel, Remarkable MS67
    Ultimate 'Demand Rarity'

    1937-D 5C Three-Legged, FS-901, MS67 NGC. "Three-Legged Buffalo." The name has a piquancy and an oxymoronic savor that made it catch on even among the general public. The U.S. coin issues that members of the noncollecting public could name are an extremely short list, but they would include the Three-Legged Buffalo, the "1943 copper penny," and the 1909-S VDB cent, this last in a lesser class than the other two.

    It is fitting that the Big Sky Country of Montana was "home on the range" for the novel Buffalo nickels, which seem to have turned up there within a short time after production, chiefly the area in and around Bozeman. David Lange's series reference notes that C.L. "Cowboy" Franzen either discovered--or at least first publicized--the variety in The Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine as early as 1937-38. Veteran coin dealer Aubrey Bebee wrote in the magazine about the issue:

    "Maurice Gould is undoubtedly correct in his assumption that Montana was the main 'stamping ground' of the 3-legged Buffaloes. While touring the West for several months in 1939, we stopped at Bozeman, Montana, for several days, where Mrs. Bebee and I had the great pleasure of meeting Harold C. White, who informed us of the existence of this freak. I bought several of these nickels from Mr. White, as I doubted that I would be able to find any as late as 1939. However, the next day I went to the banks there and from four $50.00 bags found about 30 specimens. In Great Falls, Montana, we did not find as many but here we found several that were strictly uncirculated. Two months later, we returned from Canada and toured Idaho, Washington, Oregon and other western states, and the only 3-legged Buffaloes we found were in the possession of collectors."



    It is fortunate for collectors that the issue was discovered so soon after manufacture, because high-grade (and all) examples are the subject of incredible demand--sometimes from those selfsame members of the "general public" who would not dream of owning any other collector coin. Lange notes that Mint State coins are "scarce but sometimes available," adding this:

    "They turn up for sale less often than their certified population would suggest, due to an unceasing demand that results in quick placement. Choice examples are scarce, gems rare. Most pieces encountered grade VF-AU."



    The combined certified population at NGC and PCGS is in the neighborhood of 2,000 Mint State coins, but those figures must be taken with several grains of salt, since a one-point grade bump provides a considerable price incentive. Most Uncirculated certified coins cluster at the MS62 level, with finer-graded pieces diminishing rapidly in number in MS63 and above. Superb Gems are among the ultimate condition rarities -- certainly of the series, but as an unquestioned "demand rarity" among the entire federal coinage, it leaves other issues in the dust (despite only three legs).

    This lustrous and sharply struck example has all the eye appeal of the finest regular 1937-D nickels. The definition on the chief's hair, braid knot, and the bison's back are exceptional. The satiny surfaces radiate vivid mint luster with mellow champagne-gold shades at the borders and icy-lilac toning at the centers. NGC reports just three MS67 examples with none finer; PCGS has yet to record such a highly graded coin. Census: 3 in 67 (1 in 67 ), 0 finer (3/16). (NGC ID# 22SX, Variety PCGS# 38475, Base PCGS# 3982)

    Weight: 5.00 grams

    Metal: 75% Copper, 25% Nickel


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

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    Auction Dates
    Apr-May, 2016
    27th-1st Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 21
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