American Buffalo (coin)

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United States
Value(Proof), 4–5% above spot (Bullion) U.S. dollars
Mass31.108 g (1.0001 troy oz)
Diameter32.7 mm (1.287 in)
Thickness2.95 mm (0.116 in)
Composition99.99% (24K) gold
Years of minting2006–present
Catalog numberBA6
Buffalo $50 Obverse.png
DesignAmerican Indian head
DesignerJames Earle Fraser's design of the Indian Head nickel was modified for the American Buffalo coin
Design date1913
Buffalo $50 Reverse.png
DesignAmerican bison
DesignerJames Earle Fraser's design of the Indian Head nickel was modified for the American Buffalo coin
Design date1913

The American Buffalo, also known as a gold buffalo, is a 24-karat bullion coin first offered for sale by the United States Mint in 2006. The coin follows the design of the Indian Head nickel and has gained its nickname from the American Bison on the reverse side of the design. This was the first time the United States Government minted pure (.9999) 24-karat gold coins for the public.[1] The coin contains one-troy ounce (31.1g) of pure gold and has a legal tender (face) value of US$50. Due to a combination of the coin's popularity and the increase in the price of gold the coin's value has increased considerably. The initial 2006 U.S. Mint price of the proof coin was $800.[2] In 2007 the price was $899.95,[3] $1,410 in 2009,[4] and $2,010 in 2011.[5]

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 for the Indian Head nickel (Type 1), issued in early 1913. After a raised mound of dirt below the animal on the reverse was reduced, the Type 2 variation continued to be minted for the rest of 1913 and every year until 1938, except for 1922, 1932, and 1933 when no nickels were struck. Generally, Fraser's Indian Head nickel design is regarded as among the best designs of any U.S. coins. The same design also was used on the 2001 Smithsonian commemorative coin.

The obverse (front) of the coin depicts a Native American, whom Fraser said he created as a mixture of the features of three chiefs from different American Indian tribes, Big Tree, Iron Tail, and Two Moons, who posed as models for him to sketch. The obverse also shows the motto "LIBERTY" on the top right, the year of mintage on the bottom left, and below that the letter F for Fraser.

The American Buffalo gold bullion coin further has in common with the nickel the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM above the buffalo's lower back and the device UNITED·STATES·OF·AMERICA along the top. Differences that can be noted between the nickel and the fifty dollar piece are, on the gold American Buffalo coin the mound area of the reverse of the Indian Head nickel bearing 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 of the newer coin to the left of, and beneath, the buffalo's head.

Fractional sizes[edit]

The U.S. Mint indicated an expansion of the program, to include buffalo gold coins in fractional sizes for 2008 only. The specially-packaged 8–8-08 Double Prosperity set contained a one-half ounce gold buffalo coin.[6]
Weights and measures provided below:

Diameter Thickness Weight
$5 (1/10 oz.) 16.5 mm (0.650 in.) 1.19 mm (0.047 in.) 0.10 Troy oz. (3.11 g, 0.109 oz.)
$10 (1/4 oz.) 22.0 mm (0.866 in.) 1.83 mm (0.072 in.) 0.25 Troy oz. (7.776 g, 0.274 oz.)
$25 (1/2 oz.) 27.0 mm (1.063 in.) 2.24 mm (0.088 in.) 0.503 Troy oz. (15.552 g, 0.5485 oz.)


Currently, all U.S. bullion coins, including the American Buffalo gold piece, are 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 (front) of the coin, behind the neck of the Indian; the bullion version does not have the "W" mint mark. The 2006 and 2007 coins only have 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 U.S. Mint is (BA6).

The coin was created in order to compete with foreign 24-karat gold bullion coins. Since investors sometimes prefer 99.99% pure gold over the 91.67% gold used in the American Gold Eagle, many were choosing non-U.S. 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.

On September 26, 2008, the U.S. Mint announced that, temporarily, it would halt sales of the American Buffalo coins because it could not keep up with soaring demand as investors sought the safety of gold amid the subprime mortgage crisis of the late 2000s,[7] which had also affected the price of gold.


Mintage[8] for the bullion version of the American Buffalo is as follows (all 1 ounce coins):

Year Mintage
2021 350,500
2020 242,000
2019 61,500
2018 121,500
2017 99,500
2016 219,500
2015 220,500
2014 180,500
2013 198,500
2012 100,000
2011 250,000
2010 209,000
2009 200,000
2008 189,500
2007 136,503
2006 337,012

See also[edit]


  1. ^ United States Mint. "United States Mint Strikes First Pure Gold U.S. Coins for Investors & Collectors". Archived from the original on 14 July 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-21.
  2. ^ United States Mint. "American Buffalo Gold Proof Coin Available from the United States Mint Beginning June 22". Archived from the original on 14 July 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-21.
  3. ^ United States Mint. "2007 American Buffalo Gold Proof One Ounce Coin (BA7)". Archived from the original on 25 March 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2008.
  4. ^ United States Mint. "2009 American Buffalo Gold Proof One Ounce Coin (BA7)". Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  5. ^ United States Mint. "2011 American Buffalo Gold Proof One Ounce Coin (BA7)". Retrieved 2011-12-01.
  6. ^ "United States Mint Releases 8–8–08 Double Prosperity Set August 1", United States Mint, July 22, 2008, retrieved March 18, 2021
  7. ^ "Mint suspends sale of 24-karat gold coins". USA Today. September 26, 2008. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  8. ^ "Bullion Sales/Mintage Figures - 2014 American Buffalo Bullion (year-dated coins sold)". United States Mint. 31 March 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2015.

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