The Buffalo Nickel: An Icon on a Vest

General, Lifestyle -

The Buffalo Nickel: An Icon on a Vest

Author: Tay Jones, CEO of Twisty Rider LLC

Produced from 1913 to 1938, the Buffalo Nickel, or the Indian Head Nickel as it is sometimes referred to, was created as a symbol of a growing America.  Designed in 1912 by James Earle Fraser, the Buffalo Nickel features a Native American on one side and a buffalo on the other.

The Liberty Head Nickel, which proceeded the Buffalo Nickel for thirty years, was on its way out and Fraser’s design was chosen for the revamped coin.  The first coins were struck on February 22, 1913 and were introduced into limited circulation at the groundbreaking ceremony for the National American Indian Memorial in Staten Island, New York.  (Despite breaking ground and having a ceremony, the memorial never made it to completion.)  President Taft distributed forty of the brand new nickels to Native American chiefs in attendance at the ceremony.  The coin was officially circulated beginning March 4, 1913.

Although the coin had several manufacturing and design foibles, including not holding up against wear and tear like most coins, the Buffalo Nickel is one of the iconic coins of American history.  It is a beautiful design that stood for America and the great, expanding west.  In 1938 the Jefferson Nickel that we all know today, took over and began its circulation.  It has now been in our pockets for over eighty years.  The Jefferson Nickel has seen some changes, but none, in my opinion, make it more beautiful than the Buffalo Nickel which will live on through time as one of the icons of American coinage.

In 1947, Fraser spoke about his Buffalo Nickel design during a radio interview.  He said when he was asked to design the new nickel, he wanted to do something “totally American” and design a coin that wouldn’t be mistaken for the currency of any other nation.  He continued to claim that the buffalo, a symbol of the west, was one-hundred percent American and that the American Indian perfectly fit the design he was trying to accomplish.

The Buffalo Nickel, despite being a beautiful coin and an icon of a bygone era, also held a record.  The coin’s buffalo was the first animal other than an eagle to be struck on a coin and put into circulation.  It continued to be the only coin with a non-eagle animal until 1999 when the coins of the 50 State Quarters Program began to be introduced.

The Buffalo Nickel has always been one of my favorite coins.  I even have a few rolls of them that were passed down to me.  They are, for lack of a better word, cool.  And “cool” is precisely the word I used to describe the Daniel Smart Mfg. leather motorcycle vest that uses snaps modeled after the Buffalo Nickel.  Nothing beats riding a motorcycle to get that feeling of freedom; a feeling I’m sure people felt in that bygone era, pushing west, exploring new territories.

This vest is one of my favorite designs because of the sense of freedom it exudes.  Donning this vest, getting that kickstand up and exploring new roads is what it’s all about.  If you love adventure and expressing yourself through your riding gear, you’re going to love this vest.

The leather motorcycle vest with Buffalo Nickel snaps comes in both traditional and side-laced designs.  Both come with a single panel back, ideal for accessorizing with patches or club logos.  They have two large, inside pockets ideal for concealed carry.  The pockets are made of special, heavy-duty textile with built-in holsters and snap closure.  The vests also have reinforced shoulder supports and are lined for breathability to keep you comfortable on your adventures.

Daniel Smart Mfg. Leather Biker Vest with Buffalo Nickel Snaps

Traditional Motorcycle Vest with Buffalo Nickel Snaps

Daniel Smart Mfg. Side-Laced Leather Motorcycle Vest with Buffalo Nickel Snaps

Side-Laced Motorcycle Vest with Buffalo Nickel Snaps


Shop these and other motorcycle vests at our Motorcycle Vests Collection.


Thanks for sticking around for a history lesson…

now Get Out There and Ride!



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