1913 5C Buffalo Nickel, Judd-1950, Pollock-2025, Low R.7 P...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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1913 Buffalo Nickel Pattern, PR66
1913 5C Buffalo Nickel, Judd-1950, Pollock-2025, Low R.7 PR66
PCGS. Ex: Simpson. Similar to the adopted design but with a
wide border and lacking the designer's initial "F" below the date.
Struck in nickel with a plain edge. James Earl Fraser's Buffalo
nickel is iconic in American numismatics. These coins, struck for
circulation from 1913 to 1938, are part of the fabric, the
foundation of collecting in this country and have been for
generations. With that in mind, we are absolutely delighted to
offer one of the few known patterns that survive from the
pre-production process for the famous Buffalo nickel.
Judd-1950, No Designer's Initial
Four Examples Traced
There are two main reasons why so few Buffalo nickel patterns were made or survive. First, the Janvier reducing lathe purchased by the Mint in 1906 made it possible for authorities to approve coinage designs simply by examining plaster models, casts, and galvanos. According to Roger Burdette's Renaissance of American Coinage, 1909-1915:
"A pattern coin was only necessary when the director or secretary of the treasury wanted to a hold new coin design in his hands or roll it between his fingers before making a final decision. Most medal and coin designs were selected and modified based on plaster models, and hubs were cut directly from the approved models."
Second, James Earl Fraser was so deeply committed to ensuring he received the commission and this his design was approved that he had his own electrotype patterns privately produced by Medallic Art Company. Burdette explains that they were
"little nickel-sized electrotype samples the artist made so [treasury] secretary [Franklin] MacVeagh could see what the real coin would look like. ... By controlling all design and production processes including cutting the hubs, Fraser eliminated the need for mint-produced patterns."
Fraser's design was complete by August 1912. Mint-made Buffalo nickel patterns struck in early 1913 feature small variations in rim type and diameter. These were done mainly to test the striking viability of the design and to mollify Clarence Hobbs and Hobbs Company, who were concerned the new nickels would not be compatible with their vending machines.
Roger Burdette describes Judd-1950 as "the best version of the pre-production buffalo nickel to survive... ." Only 17 examples were struck, all on January 13, 1913. Six of those were destroyed, leaving a net distribution of 11 pieces. Of those, two were donated to the mint cabinet and now reside in the Smithsonian Institution National Numismatic Collection, where they are permanently impounded. President Roosevelt received one, but he placed it in the cornerstone of the All Souls' Church in Washington, D.C. That leaves eight examples at most in private hands. One each was given to James Earl Fraser, Charles Barber, Robert Clark, and Albert Norris. Three patterns were given to Secretary MacVeagh. One example has been lost. PCGS has only certified this representative from the Bob R. Simpson in PR66 and the Farouk-Forsythe coin in PR63. None are reported at NGC (5/20).
This Premium Gem shows the wide border and rough, granular surfaces that distinguish these patterns from their regular-issue counterparts. Fraser's initial "F" is also missing below the date. Both sides are beautifully toned in iridescent lavender, peach-orange, and powder-blue patina. The artist's original vision for the Buffalo nickel design is rendered in complete detail.
Ex: Regency Auction IV (Legend-Morphy Auctions, 7/2013), lo 68.
Coin Index Numbers: (Variety PCGS# 518288, Base PCGS# 62260)
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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