How to Acid Date Buffalo Nickels

By Jennifer Izzi ; Updated April 12, 2017
The dates on Buffalo Nickels often wear away, thus reducing their values.

Buffalo Nickels, also referred to as Indian Head Nickels, were in circulation from 1913-1938. The dates on Buffalo Nickels are printed below the neck of the Native American on the head’s side of the coin. Because of its location, the date is worn off on many of the coins still around today. This has caused trouble for collectors, who often search for older, more valuable coins. In order to recapture the dates on these rare coins, collectors and dealers use chemicals to help clarify the details of the nickels. The chemicals eat away at a small amount of the metal that has formed around and obscured the date. The date remains intact because it is made up of a higher percentage of copper due to the stamping process. There are a few options to complete this task: use a commercial coin cleaner, such as Nic-a-date or a homespun chemical mixture.

Nic-a-Date

Apply one drop of Nic-a-Date to the area of the coin where the date should appear. For Buffalo Nickels, this is on the bottom of the head’s side of the coin.

Wash the coin with water and dry it once the date appears.

Try the process a second time if the date is not clearly displayed. The date may not appear at all, so do not continue the process after multiple failed attempts.

Homemade Acetic Mixture

Place the nickel, head’s side up, in approximately 10 mL of vinegar, 5 percent acetic acid.

Inspect the coin frequently to see whether or not a date develops. Depending on the amount of corrosion, the nickel may take anywhere from one to eight weeks to show a date.

Take the coin out of the vinegar after eight weeks, even if a date does not appear. This method will only work for about a third of the coins.

Things Needed

  • Nic-a-Date
  • Vinegar
  • Shallow cup
  • Gloves
  • Rag

Warning

Acid treatments often eat away at coins, which will lower their value.