The American Buffalo or Gold Buffalo coin is a 24-karat bullion coin that was first sold by the U.S. Mint in 2006. Unlike previous American gold coinage, which has traditionally been 22-karat (or .9167 ), the American Buffalo Gold was the first coin minted of .9999 fine gold coin to be produced by the U.S. Government for public distribution. Its production was authorized by the Presidential 41 Coin Act in December, 2005. The American Gold Buffalo is minted at the United States Mint in West Point, New York. By law, all of the gold used in the production of the American Buffalo bullion coin must be from newly-mined sources within the United States
The design of the American Buffalo is a modified version of James Earle Fraser’s design for the popular America’s five-cent-coin, known as the “Indian Head” or “Buffalo Nickel,” which was minted from 1913 to 1938. The obverse side shows the profile of a Native American man, who, according to Fraser, was modeled after three different chiefs, Big Tree (Kiowa Tribe), Iron Tail (Oglala Lakota Tribe), and Two Months (Cheyenne Tribe). In addition, the obverse side features the inscription LIBERTY as well as the year of minting. The reverse side shows the silhouette of an American Bison standing on a pile of dirt in profile. The bison is supposedly modeled after “Black Diamond,” popular attraction in the New York Zoological Gardens in the early 20th century. The reverse side also features the inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN GOD WE TRUST, E PLURIBUS UNUM, and $50 1 OZ. .9999 FINE GOLD. Furthermore, the proof version of the Buffalo Gold coin bears the mint mark “W” on the front, while the bullion version does not have the “W” mint mark.
Each American Buffalo coin has a purity of .9999 gold.
The face value of the American Buffalo Gold bullion is $50, which is its legal value reflecting its issue and monetized value. In 2006 and 2007, only 1 oz coins (with a face value of $50) were minted. In 2008, the Mint also produced ½ oz ($25 face value ), ¼ oz ($10 face value), and 1/10 oz ($5 face value) proof and uncirculated versions of the American Buffalo. All Buffalo Gold coins are legal tender for all debts public and private at their face values. However, due to the coin’s high collector’s value and the monumental rise of the price of gold in recent yeas, the American Buffalo’s value has increased significantly. In 2006, the U.S. Mint offered the proof coin at $800, in 2007 at $8999.95, in 2009 at $1,4100, and in 2011 at $2,010.
The coin was created in order to compete with foreign 24-karat gold bullion coins. Many investors prefer pure 99.99% gold over the 91.67% gold used in the American Gold Eagle; thus, they chose non-U.S. fine gold coins to meet their bullion needs. With the introduction of the American Buffalo Gold coin, the U.S. government hopes to stimulate U.S. gold sales and profit from the 24-karat gold bullion coin market that is estimated at $2.4 billion. The American Buffalo Gold coin offers investors all the security, liquidity and protection of a world-class gold coin while being backed by the U.S. government. Moreover, the coin may be placed in a gold IRA (Individual Retirement Account).