The American Buffalo
, also known as a Gold Buffalo, is a 24-karat gold bullion coin
first offered for sale by the United States Mint
on June 22 2006
, and available for shipment beginning on July 13
. This was the first time ever that the United States Government
has minted pure (.9999) 24-karat gold coins for the public. The coin has a legal tender
(face) value of US$50
. The initial 2006 price of the proof coin
was $800. The price of the 2007 proof coin
In addition to requiring a presidential dollar coin series to begin in 2007 and redesigning the cent in 2009, the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005 mandated the production of a one-ounce 24-karat gold bullion coin with a face value of $50, and a mintage limit of up to 300,000 coins.
The design of the American Buffalo gold bullion coin is a modified version of James Earle Fraser
's design of the Buffalo nickel
(Type 1), issued in early 1913. After the mound was removed, the Type 2 variation continued to be minted for the rest of 1913 and every year until 1938 (except 1922, 1932, and 1933, when no nickels were struck). The obverse depicts a Native American
man, who Fraser said he based on a mixture of features from three American Indian men (John Big Tree
, Iron Tail
and Two Moons
) from three different tribes that posed for him to be sketched. On the reverse stands an American bison
on a mound of dirt, commonly referred to as a buffalo. The animal on the reverse is believed by most to be a bison named "Black Diamond" that lived in New York City's Central Park Zoo
during the 1910s. It is said that Fraser had to have someone distract the buffalo while he sneaked up beside it to draw it. Otherwise, the buffalo would stare at him and Fraser wouldn't get the profile he wanted. Fraser's nickel design is generally considered to be amongst the best designs of any U.S. coin. It was also used on the 2001 Smithsonian commemorative coin
On the American Buffalo coin, the mound area of the reverse with the words "FIVE CENTS" has been changed to read "$50 1 OZ. .9999 FINE GOLD". Also, the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST", appearing on all U.S. gold coins since 1908, can be seen on the reverse to the left of and beneath the buffalo's head.
the U.S. Mint has indicated an expansion of the program, to include Buffalo gold coins in fractional sizes. The specially-packaged 8-8-08 Double Prosperity set contains a one-half ounce gold Buffalo coin.
All U.S. bullion coins, including the American Buffalo gold piece, are currently being struck at the West Point Mint
in New York
. According to the U.S. Mint website, only the proof version of the Buffalo gold coin bears the mint mark
"W" on the obverse; the bullion version does not have the "W" mark. The 2006 and 2007 coins have only been issued in a one ounce version, but in 2008, $5, $10, and $25 face value coins were minted with 1/10 oz, 1/4 oz, and 1/2 oz of gold respectively.
After a long wait by both collectors and investors, the uncirculated version of the American Buffalo gold piece was made available to coin dealers on June 20 2006. Collectors who wanted to purchase the proof version from the mint were given the opportunity to place their orders with the Mint beginning on July 22. The 2006 proof quality coin has a strict mintage limit of 300,000, with an additional enforced limit of only ten (10) coins per household. The catalog number of the 2006 proof coin at the US Mint is (BA6).
The coin was created in order to compete with foreign 24-karat gold bullion coins. Since investors usually prefer 99.99% pure gold over the 91.67% gold used in the American Gold Eagle, many were choosing non-US coins, such as the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf, to meet their bullion needs. With the American Buffalo coin, the U.S. government hopes to increase the amount of U.S. gold sales and cash in on the 24-karat sales, which makes up about 60% of the world gold market.
Also on July 22, the Mint transferred two of the American Buffalo coins to the Smithsonian Institution's coin collection because of their historic value.
On September 26, 2008 the U.S. Mint announced it is temporarily halting sales of the American Buffalo coins because it can't keep up with soaring demand as investors seek the safety of gold amid the current economic turbulence