Fact Check

Buffalo Nickel

Are buffalo nickels being recalled because the bison depicted is anatomically correct?

Published Jun 23, 2005


Claim:   U.S. buffalo nickels are being recalled because the bison depicted is anatomically correct.



[Collected via e-mail, 2005]

My brother just emailed me that the new buffalo nickels are being recalled because someone complained that they are too anatomically correct.

[Collected via e-mail, 2005]

Are the new buffalo nickels going to be recalled because of obvious an "male" part of the animal's anatomy being included?


Origins:   Beginning in March 2004, the U.S. Treasury began issuing a series of four new five-cent pieces that commemorated Lewis and Clark's expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. The offerings in

2005 Buffalo Nickel
1913 Buffalo Nickel

the "Westward Journey" nickel series featured updated portraits of Thomas Jefferson on the obverse and new designs on the reverse, including among the latter the Louisiana Purchase/Peace Medal (which went into circulation in March 2004), Keelboat (August 2004), American Bison (March 2005), and the Ocean in View (August 2005).In 2006 the reverse of the nickel returned to its customary post-1938 design depicting Jefferson's home at Monticello.

The third nickel in the series was the subject of a rumor that traveled mostly in the offline world. According to gossip across America, that particular coin was about to be recalled by the U.S. Mint because the bison it depicted on its reverse sported an obvious male appendage (actually a prepuce tassel, not a penis). Rumor had it some citizens had deemed that particular aspect of the design to be offensive and were spearheading a movement to have the coin and its explicit procreative organ removed from circulation.


it is true the animal shown on the 2005 buffalo nickel is most decidedly male, it was not true there was a move afoot to rescind the coin from circulation or that the coins were recalled by the U.S. Treasury. That rumor was an expression of a current state of anxiety regarding matters of a graphic sexual nature finding their way into the mainstream, a trepidation often voiced as "Children might see this!"

Previous generations of children have weathered the sight of the male buffalo in all its masculine glory turning up in their pocket money. The nickel produced by the U.S. Mint between 1913 and 1938 also depicted a male bison in a natural state. Its subject was an American bison named Black Diamond who was a resident of the Central Park Zoo in New York City between 1893 and 1915. Black Diamond, it has been said, was less than cooperative in posing, and it took the efforts of a zoo employee to distract the animal long enough from staring down the artist for its best side to be captured.

Barbara "buffaloed bison" Mikkelson

Additional information:

    Westward Journey Nickel Series   Westward Journey Nickel Series   (The United States Mint)

Last updated:   17 May 2011


    Crutsinger, Martin.   "Buffalo Nickel Is Unveiled with Drum Beating and Tribal Chants."

    The Associated Press State.   1 March 2005.

    Dalin, Shera.   "Hordes of Hoarders Round Up New Nickel."

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch.   20 March 2005   (p. F1).

    Klinkenborg, Verlyn.   "The (Old) Buffalo Nickel."

    The New York Times.   6 March 2005   (p. D12).

    Venable, Sam.   "No Doubt of Gender in Legal Tender."

    Knoxville News-Sentinel.   13 May 2005   (p. B1).

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