The Three legged Buffalo Nickel by Cliff Lawless

1937-D 3 Leg Buffalo Nickel


Mintage for 1937-D - 17,826,000
Designer - James Earle Fraser


This variety is so popular that it's considered by most collectors to be part of the regular set! These are readily available in most grades, for a price! Not really a rare variety, but the price reflects the high demand for this coin.

How did this come about? Apparently, the dies came together without a planchet in between, causing what are called clash marks. When this happens an impression of the obverse (hammer) die will show up on the reverse (anvil) die and vice versa. If a coin is struck with these dies, the coin may exibit the clash marks. To fix this problem, a Mint employee must polish the dies, removing the evidence of the clash.Missing foreleg

On this variety the employee may have gotten a little overzealous with his polishing and polished the right foreleg away!

As seen in the picture at right, the hoof is visible, but no leg!

This is one variety that you would want to examine closely to make sure that the leg wasn't removed after it left the Mint. There should be no scratches or file marks in the area of the missing leg. Also, there will be a raised line of "bumps" arching from the Bison's belly to the ground.

Arguably the most American coin design in U.S. coinage history, the Buffalo Nickel is a sharp departure from the Greco-Roman designs of Charles Barber, or the Colonial-type designs of Robert Scot and John Reich. Chief John Big Tree

The obverse depicts an American Indian in profile. It has been said that the original drawing was a composite of three Indian Chiefs; John Big Tree (pictured at left), Iron Tail, and Two Moons.

The reverse depicts an American Bison, which is actually not a Buffalo! The model for the Bison was "Black Diamond", one-time resident of New York City's Central Park Zoo.

James Earle Fraser is also known for many other famous works, such as the sculpture, "End of The Trail", often mistakenly attributed to Frederick Remington.

In 1926 Fraser collaboratedLaura Gardin FraserJames Earle Fraser with his wife, Laura Gardin Fraser, an accomplished artist in her own right, on the Oregon Trail Commemorative Half Dollar. Again a very American coin design depicting an Indian brave on obverse, and a Conestoga wagon heading west along the Oregon Trail on reverse.

Of all Fraser's works, I believe it's safe to say that the "Buffalo Nickel" is his best known, and the "3 Leg" variety the most desirable!