What is an American Gold Buffalo?

Gold 1 Ounce Buffalo $50 USA Reverse
Gold 1 Ounce Buffalo $50 USA Obverse

The American Buffalo, or simply Gold Buffalo, is a 24 carat (‘karat’) one-ounce gold coin struck by the United States Mint. It’s design is based on the Indian Head Nickel. The coin is legal tender with a face value of $50. It has been available as Proof and bullion, and in 2013 as a Reverse Proof to celebrate 100th anniversary of the James Earle Fraser design.

The US Mint had already created a gold coin in 1986, the Gold Eagle, which is 91.67% gold.  To compete with other country’s pure/fine gold bullion coins (such as the Canadian Gold Maple), the Gold Buffalo was launched in 2006 with a gold content of 99.99%.

Gold 1 Ounce Buffalo $50 USA Reverse

The obverse shows the head of an American Indian and is a modified design of the one created by James Earle Fraser (1876-1953) for the Indian Head (or Buffalo) nickel (Type 1) in 1913. The image is a mixture of three chiefs from different tribes who modeled for Fraser.

buffalo-proof-mintmarkYou can see on the coin, just below the head and date, is the letter ‘F’ for Fraser. On the Proof coins only is a mintmark (‘W’ for West Point Mint in New York).

The reverse shows a buffalo (or American bison) standing on a mound, from which the coin gets its nickname.

Diameter of the 1 ounce coin is 32.7mm and is 2.95mm thick. The edge is reeded.

In 2006 the coin cost $800 but because of the steep rise in gold the Buffalo was over $2,000 by 2011. Due to this high cost of gold the US Mint introduced fractional sizes in 2008 as $5 (1/10th oz), $10 (1/4 oz) and $25 (1/2 oz) to make the product more affordable. The 2016 Gold Buffalo debut price was $1,590 for the Proof and typically 5% over spot for the bullion coins.

My thanks to Max Hughes (M J Hughes Coins) for allowing me to photograph the coin. M J Hughes Coins buys and sells gold coins.


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