American Gold Buffalo Coin

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What is the American Gold Buffalo Coin?

The American Gold Buffalo, also known simply as the Gold Buffalo or the American Buffalo coin is a gold bullion coin originally based on the 1913 Indian-head nickel of great renown, designed by late master artist and sculptor James Earle Fraser. The first-ever pure gold (24-karat) .999 fine gold bullion ever produced in the U. S. that possesses legal tender and is duly authorized by the government for general transactions as well as investment purposes.

Considered one of the most beautiful of gold U. S. bullion owing to the ever-popular depictions created by Fraser for the original Indian Head nickel, it is not only sought after for its unsurpassed purity, but also its remarkable craftsmanship and beauty. The Gold Buffalo depicts one of the most accurate portraitures of a Native American man in profile on the obverse facing right, which was originally made by Fraser for the 1913 Indian Head nickel, with only very minor modifications to further enhance the design. It is said that the artist based this portrait on several Native Americans, among them Big Tree, Two Moons, and Iron Tail. The obverse coin also carries the legend ‘LIBERTY’ in English to the right-side of the bust, while the lower left side of the coin bears the date of mintage and any mintmarks that may be present indicated at the right side, near the Indian’s neck.[1] The reverse of the coin bears the profile of an American Bison facing left, commonly but erroneously referred to as a ‘buffalo’, (hence its moniker), which was also found on the 1913 nickel. Readapted for use in the gold bullion coin, it had to undergo further modifications while retaining the majority of its original concept. The reverse bears the legends ‘UNITED STATES OF AMERICA’ atop the bison, with the Latin motto ‘E PLURIBUS UNUM’ below it, to the right side (atop the back of the buffalo). Below the buffalo’s muzzle is the iconic currency motto ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’, while below it, on the mount the buffalo is standing on is stated the face value of the coin ($50) and its fractional weight and gold purity where the phrase ‘50 cents’ in the original 1913 nickel would be.[2]

The Gold Buffalo weighs exactly one ounce and measures 32.7 mm (1.287in) in diameter, making it a small, but very precious and easily transportable gold coin. As with the American Gold Eagle, the Gold Buffalo possesses legal tender and a face value of $50 dollars. As such, it can be used to pay for general transactions, or employed for purchasing purposes at face value, while its value as gold bullion is only applicable when purchasing the coins from select outlets and the official mint, or selling it out (at a premium price, of course) to said outlets.

Because it is made of pure gold unlike the Gold Eagles, the Gold Buffalo is more preferred by bullion investors, where prior to its release, they would actively seek out foreign pure bullion over American Eagles instead. With the subsequent release of the Gold Buffalo, the sales in American gold bullion immediately rose owing to interest regarding Gold Buffaloes. Originally sold for a mere $800, the prices immediately soared as demand increased, with its production needing a regulated number of mintages. At present, the Gold Buffalo is rarely available at all seasons owing to the extreme demand for the coin.[3]

Made in both bullion quality and proof quality versions, the Gold Buffalo proof coins sell for a tad more (during initial purchase, and in its eventual re-sale by an investor) than the bullion coins. Expressly minted for numismatic collectors, the Gold Buffalo proof coins are far more detailed versions of the bullion coins and are minted expressly by the United States Mint at West Point, New York. The proof coins carry a mintmark (‘W’ for West Point) on the obverse of the coin near the neck of the Indian’s profile. The proof coins have a strict limited mintage quantity of only 300, 000 coins. Furthermore, to prevent hoarding, only ten proof Gold Buffaloes are allowed per household as enforced by law, with each coin purchased being registered and noted to prevent mass-accumulation of Gold Buffaloes.[4] This law is, however, only applicable in the U. S., and a number of bullion investors and numismatic collectors outside of U. S. territory actively amass them by the twenties to fifties as investment.

Due to the official mint’s inability to meet the excessive demands of the public for more Gold Buffalo, independent mints have created their own versions of the Gold Buffaloes, which are nothing more than blatant imitations of the original bullion. To differentiate it from the original, the word ‘COPY’ is usually seen on the obverse printed on the Indian’s hair – a feature which is absent in the original one. Both authentic .999 fine gold imitations as well as fanciful fakes made of base metal plated with gold can be found and are sold for varying prices.[5] Unlike the original, these imitation Gold Buffaloes do not possess legal tender and may not be used for general purchase despite its face value (still at $50), although the ones made by private mints out of pure gold may be used as bullion investments and can be treated as such. These will usually sell for lower premiums or none at all despite their pure state, owing to their relative unpopularity and unofficial nature. The Gold Buffalo is the more popular of the two Americana gold bullion, with the Gold Eagle coming in at a second. While the latter is still of interest to numismatists, the Gold Buffalo has a stronger following in the investment market due to its vastly ‘superior’ metallic purity.

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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