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2005 Buffalo Nickel (American Bison): Value & Errors

The 2005 Buffalo nickel is famously known for one specific rare coin – the 2005-D Speared Bison. The speared bison variety is the rarest 2005 buffalo nickel, featuring a unique reverse design that fetched a record-breaking $2,650 in a 2021 auction.

The rest of the 2005 buffalo nickels are very common, with a few valuable ones in uncirculated mint condition. Proof sets are the most valuable, usually sold for several or hundreds of dollars in the open market and even thousands of dollars at auctions.

Read on to dive into the intriguing history of the 2005 Buffalo Nickel, its specifications, current value, and notable errors.

History of the 2005 Buffalo Nickel

2005 Buffalo Nickel

The 2005 Buffalo Nickel, formally known as the 2005 American Bison Nickel, is part of the 2004 – 2005 Westward Journey Nickel Series. It is also referred to as the 2005 Jefferson Nickel: American Bison.

This series was initiated by the United States Mint to commemorate the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Louisiana Purchase. These events played a crucial role in the expansion of the United States westward, and the Buffalo Nickel serves as a visual representation of this historic period.

Despite being in their own Westward Series, these coins are also circulation coins that made up the Jefferson Nickel (1965 to Date) Series. Westward series is an example of one-time-only celebratory commemorative coins made to honor unique events – in this case, the 200th anniversary of the Lewis & Clark expedition.

The Westward Journey featured four distinct designs of the Jefferson Nickel, namely:

All the coins included Thomas Jefferson’s bust on the obverse (heads), albeit in varying designs between 2004 and 2005. The 2004 obverse designs bore the likeness of Thomas Jefferson, used on the nickel since 1938, while the second year altered the image for the first time in 67 years.

The 2005 coins bore a new likeness of Jefferson where the image faced the right instead of the left. The image covers the entire left side half.

Some may also confuse the 2005 buffalo nickel with the original buffalo nickels (Indian Head nickel) that were minted between 1913 and 1938. Despite having the same names, these two series of coins are different.

However, what they have in common is that the 2005 Buffalo Nickel pays homage to the 1913 to 1938 Buffalo Nickel by keeping the image of the buffalo at the back, which is now reversed to face the right instead of the original left-facing buffalo.

The obverse of the 2005 version features the altered portrait of President Thomas Jefferson, while the reverse showcases a stunning portrayal of an American bison (commonly referred to by many as a buffalo), a symbol of the Westward expansion.

The rich history of the 2005 buffalo nickel brings together the classic nature of the 1913-1938 coins while also combining some modern aspects. This makes it an appealing item to many collectors of all ages.

2005 Buffalo Nickel Features

2005 American Bison (Buffalo Nickel) Specifications:

  • Series: Westward Journey Nickel Series (2004 – 2005)
  • Year of Make: 2005
  • Mint Branch: Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco
  • Composition: 25% Nickel, 75% Copper
  • Weight: 5.00 grams
  • Diameter: 21.21 millimeters (0.835 inches)
  • Thickness: 1.95 millimeters
  • Edge: Plain (no reeds)

2005 Buffalo Nickel Varieties

The coins were made in all three mints: Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

Mintage in each of the facilities is as follows:

  • Denver (D) = 487, 680,000
  • Philadelphia (P) = 448, 320, 000
  • San Francisco (S) = 3,344,679

When it comes to varieties, the types of 2005 American bison nickel include:

Obverse and Reverse Design

The obverse (heads) features Thomas Jefferson’s bust facing the right. It was designed by Joe Fitzgerald and sculpted by Don Everhart. Inscriptions include:

  • IN GOD WE TRUST – on the right of the image, top side
  • LIBERTY – on the right of the image, mid
  • 2005 – on the right of the image – the low side
  • ‘D’ Mint Mark – appears below the mint year (2005) of a coin made in the Denver mint. Philadelphia and San Francisco coins have no mint marks.

2005 Buffalo Nickel Obverse

The reverse features an American bison, commonly referred to as a buffalo. It was designed by Jamie Franki and sculpted by Norman E. Nemeth. Inscriptions include:

  • UNITED STATES OF AMERICA– at the top center
  • FIVE CENTS – at the bottom center, below the image of the bison (‘buffalo’)
  • E PLURIBUS UNUM – between image and ‘FIVE CENTS’

2005 Buffalo Nickel Reverse

What Makes 2005 Buffalo Nickel Valuable?

Given its relative abundance, a circulated 2005 Buffalo Nickel is generally valued at face value or slightly above. However, uncirculated or proof versions of the coin, especially those in pristine condition, can command higher prices.

The price can be further influenced by several factors, including its rarity (in terms of errors), condition, and demand among collectors.

Collectors often assess the value using grading scales that rate coins based on their condition. Coins graded as Mint State (MS) or Proof (PR) generally fetch higher prices due to their superior preservation.

Specialized coin dealers, agencies, and online marketplaces can provide insights into the current market value of the 2005 Buffalo Nickel. Feel free to check out PCGS and NGC for the most trusted current value of the nickel.

2005 Buffalo Nickel Value

So, how much is a 2005 buffalo nickel worth?

The 2005 buffalo nickel has a minimal face value of $0.01 and a melt value of $0.0597.

According to the USA Coin Book, a 2005 American Bison nickel in Uncirculated Mint condition is worth nickel in worth $0.40 – $1.46. Proof coins with higher finishes in uncirculated MS condition cost $5.84.

According to NGC, as of August 2023, a 2005 buffalo nickel in circulated condition coin is worth $0.10 – $0.20, but a pristine uncirculated coin can sell for $50 – $100.

However, since coins are valued higher than their intrinsic value, the 2005 buffalo nickels sell for higher prices provided they have valuable traits: rare mint errors, higher mint condition, proof finish, are in high demand, or a combo of several of these traits.

Below is a summary value chart showcasing 2005 buffalo nickels and how much they are valued according to proprietary market knowledge of PCGS and the Numismatic Guaranty Company NGC:

Grades 2005-D
(MS)
2005-P
(MS)
2005-D/2005-D
(Special Strike)
(SP)
2005-S (Proof Coins)
(PF)
60 $0.25 $1 $2 < $1
61 $0.50 $1 $3 < $1
62 $0.75  N/A $5 < $1
63 $1 – $4  $5 $4 < $1
64 $2.50 – $8 $5- $12 $2 – $7 < $1
65 $10 – $12 $20 – $25 $5 – $8 < $1
66 $25 – $48 $35 – $48 $10- $12 < $1
67 $70 – $175 $1,100 $12.50 – $20 $1
68 N/A N/A $15 – $46 $2
69 N/A N/A $25 – $700 $14
70 N/A N/A $6000 $30

Note:

  • The N/A in columns without a price guide does not mean the coins are rare. Instead, it shows that there isn’t enough data to publish an average price estimate.
  • The grades (60 – 70) represent the particular coin’s grading prefix, i.e., MS60-MS70 for Mint State (MS), SP60-SP70 for Specimen (SP) special strike, or PR60-PR70 for Proof pennies. 

1. 2005-D Buffalo Nickel

2005 D Buffalo Nickel

With MS67 valued at $175, this variety stands as one of the least profitable.

So far, the highest-selling 2005 buffalo nickel without an error is the MS67 coin that sold for $750 in 2014 at Stack’s Bowers auction. Similarly graded coins have also sold for $720, but MS66 grades went for about $127, and MS65 or lower grades have been sold for less than $100.

The special strike varieties made for the collectors’ market are almost similarly priced. SP69 is the highest quality in this group, with auction records of $588 and $489.

Below are the highest historical auction records for the 2005-D variety:

Grade Price Firm Sale Date
MS67 $750 Stack’s Bowers 2014
MS67 $750 Stack’s Bowers 2014
MS67 $720 Stack’s Bowers 2014
SP69 $588 Heritage Auction 2016
SP69 $489 Heritage Auction 2010

2. 2005-P Buffalo Nickel

2005 P Buffalo Nickel

This variety is more profitable, with MS67 valued at $1,100. MS66 is valued at $48, and MS65 at $25.

The highest recorded auction price realized is $1,225 in 2022 and $999 in 2016 for the PCGS Genuine (the highest grade in this variety).

Special Strike varieties with more appealing satin finish are similarly priced with the exception of the highly valuable $6,000 SP70 grade.

Below are the highest historical auction records for the 2005-P variety:

Grade Price Firm Sale Date
PCGS Genuine $1,225 eBay 2022
PCGS Genuine $1000 eBay 2022
MS67 $999 Heritage Auction 2016
PCGS Genuine $895 eBay 2023
PCGS Genuine $700 eBay 2023

3. 2005-S (Proof) Buffalo Nickel

2005 S Proof Buffalo Nickel

These are the uncirculated proof variety with a unique, high-quality proof finish without any blemishes or irregularities. It is the most refined coin in the 2005 American bison series, and the most valuable grades are from PR68 and above.

Proof coins are valuable because of their proof finishes often designated with the term DCAM (Deep Cameo) or CAM (Cameo). 

The term “Cameo” is used to describe the frosted design elements of proof coins, while “Deep Cameo” indicates that the frosted cameo effect is particularly pronounced and stands out prominently against the coin’s mirrored background.

Deep Cameo (sometimes referred to as Ultra Cameo) describes the contrast between the frosted design elements on a proof coin and the mirrored background or fields. Deep Cameo coins are considered to be of the highest quality when it comes to proof coins, and they are often more desirable to collectors.

The most expensive DCAM nickel in this case is the $65 PR70DCAM 2005 bison nickel sold in 2018 at David Lawrence RC auction.

These coins are made specifically for collectors and can be easily purchased in sealed mint condition boxes.

PR70 is the highest priced coin, with an auction record of $546. PR70 is usually valued at $30, PR69 at $14, and PR68 at $2.

Below are the highest historical auction records for the 2005-S Bison variety:

Grade Price Firm Sale Date
PR70 $546 David Lawrence RC 2005
PR70DCAM $65 David Lawrence RC 2018
PR70 $45 Great Collections 2014
PR70DCAM $40 David Lawrence RC 2022
PR70 $36 Great Collections 2014

Rare 2005 Buffalo Nickel Errors

The world of coin collecting is full of intriguing anomalies, and the 2005 Buffalo Nickel is no exception. Errors can arise during the minting process, leading to unique variations that captivate collectors.

Below is the 2005 Buffalo nickel error list:

1. 2005-D Speared Bison Error – Die Gouge

2005 Buffalo Nickel Speared Bison Error

  • Mint error: Die Gouge
  • Most Valuable Grades: MS65 + ($550), MS66 ($1, 050), or higher
  • Auction Price Realized: $2,650 in 2021 & $2,250 in 2020 on eBay and $1,265 in 2010 at Heritage Auctions

Officially known as the 2005-D Speared Bison Nickel, this is the rarest error of the 2005 buffalo nickel.

The Speared bison coin features a bison image with a visible line that strikes (spears) through the back of the bison.

The issue is a result of a large die gouge error. In this case, a gouge or groove was formed on the surface of the dies used in striking the coins. These gouges, in turn, left several raised areas on a few coins during production.

Essentially, it appears a die with a gouge was used to make possibly thousands of coins, and these gouge imperfections transferred onto the struck coins.

The 2005-D Speared bison coin is valued at $1,050 for MS66 grade, $425 for MS65, $300 for MS64, and $210 for MS63.

It is almost impossible to find this variety in MS66 grade, and anything higher is non-existent. The most prevalent grade is MS64, most of which have sold at auctions for $130 – $220.

The evaluation price increased by $100 between 2021 and 2023, which tells us that the coin is in high demand and it is projected to increase in value in the foreseeable future.

You can find a few 2005 speared bison nickels on eBay. They are listed for about $69 – $500.

2. 2005-D Buffalo Nickel Improperly Annealed Error

2005 Buffalo Nickel Improperly Annealed Error

  • Mint error: Improper Annealing
  • Most Valuable Grades: MS62 or higher
  • Auction Price Realized: $119 MS62 in 2022 at Heritage Auctions

An improperly annealed error refers to a mint error related to the annealing process during coin production. It is characterized by a reddish-brown coin with lots of irregularities.

Annealing is a process used to improve the properties of metal coins, such as their hardness and ductility. When this process is not performed correctly, it can lead to an error that manifests as visual irregularities, discoloration, or other anomalies on the coin’s surface.

In this case, the annealing process was done for too long, leading to the loss of a protective atmosphere that made the copper (lying underneath) diffuse to the surface, causing the change in color.

This error is also referred to as the ‘Improperly annealed planchet’ error. An example of this is the MS65 coin that sold for $126.50 in 2010 at Heritage Auctions.

3. 2005-D American Bison Nickel Copper Washed Error

2005 Buffalo Nickel Copper Washed Error

  • Mint error: Copper Wash
  • Most Valuable Grades: MS66 or higher
  • Auction Price Realized: $126.50 MS66 in 2008 at Heritage Auctions

This error is found on a 2005 buffalo nickel with a surface that is covered with a layer of copper wash – a layer of peeling copper. It is a coin with a rich reddish-brown surface instead of the silver white found in the 2005 bison nickels.

Copper wash is similar to the ‘improperly annealed’ error since they are both mistakes made during the annealing process. However, in this case, the mistake in the annealing process was prolonged strikes that led to irregular lines and strokes in the coin as well as the change in color.

4. 2005-D Buffalo Nickel Reverse Die Gouge Error

2005 Buffalo Nickel Reverse Die Gouge Error

  • Mint error: Reverse Die Gauge error
  • Most Valuable Grades: MS64 or higher
  • Auction Price Realized: $84 in 2008 and $74 in 2019 (MS64) at Heritage Auctions

This error is not as rare or valuable as the ‘Speared Bison.’ Even though they are both die-gouge issues, this one is pretty common since it is more generic and less uniquely defined compared to the spear strike.

In this case, the 2005 American Bison Nickel has a reverse side, which features a bison image populated with a raised area or a groove. The groove or gouge is not restricted to the bison image and can be seen on other parts of the reverse side, including on the inscriptions.

Conclusion

Do not spend the 2005-D Speared bison coin if you happen to find it. This is the most valuable 2005 buffalo nickel error that can fetch you about $1,050 in the best condition.

Other coins with errors have been sold for about $70 – $200, but if your goal is to get the most valuable 2005 buffalo nickel, then you should look for the SP70 Special Strike 2005-P American Bison nickel, valued at $6,000.

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