James Earle Fraser
The American Buffalo design was born out of President Teddy Roosevelt’s quest to beautify American coinage into works of art at the beginning of the 20th century. As part of a drive to beautify U.S. coinage, five denominations of U.S. coins received new designs between 1907 and 1909. In 1911, the Taft administration decided to replace Charles E. Barber's Liberty Head design for the nickel and commissioned a respected student of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, sculptor James Earle Fraser, to redesign America’s five-cent coin. Born and raised in America’s Midwest, Fraser was used to life on the American Plains. He used inspiration from his youth for the coin’s design which showcased the native beauty of the American West. Debuting in 1913, the Indian Head/Buffalo nickel was minted for 25 years until the end of the series in 1938. The Buffalo nickel became one of America’s most recolonized and adored circulating coins that every American would have carried in their pockets back then.
Iconic Buffalo Nickel Design
The Buffalo Nickel is also known as the Indian Nickel because of the Native American Indian portrait on the obverse. It is said that Fraser used a compilation of the facial features of three different Indian Chief Models to create the profile. The inspirational figures were Iron Tail of the Sioux (Oglala Lakota Chief), Big Tree of the Kiowa (warrior and chief of the Seneca Nation), and Chief Two Moons of the Cheyenne (Battle of the Little Bighorn). The date of issue and "LIBERTY" are inscribed on the obverse. Featured on the reverse is an image of an American Bison modeled after a famous Buffalo named Black Diamond, a 1,550-pound bison who lived in the New York Central Park Zoo. The denomination, "FIVE CENTS" with "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," are inscribed on the reverse, along with a mint mark, if present.
Gold American Buffalo Design
Now, 100 years later, the strength and beauty of Fraser’s designs features on the United States Mint’s premier 24karat gold bullion coin. Once again, Fraser’s iconic designs were used in this tribute to one of America’s favorite coins. The coins honor the legacy of our Nation’s first inhabitants with a Native American portrait featured on the obverse and a majestic American Buffalo on the reverse, evoking America’s pioneering spirit and westward expansion. Differences that can be noted between the original 1913 nickel and the American Buffalo, are that this coin reads "$50 1 OZ .9999 FINE GOLD" rather than the nickel’s "FIVE CENTS," and the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" can now be seen under the buffalo’s head. Only the American Gold Buffalo Proof coins bear a mint mark. Each coin has a reeded edge, with a 32.7mm diameter, 2.95mm thickness, and weighs just slightly above 1 troy ounce, at 31.108g. Authorized by Congress in 2005, and first minted in 2006, American Buffalo Gold Bullion Coins are the first 24karat gold coins produced by the United States Mint. By law, the gold must be mined only in America. Each coin contains one ounce of .9999 gold, which puts the United States Mint at par with the world’s purest gold coins, like the Canadian gold maple leaf, in terms of the fineness and metal content.
The Gold Buffalo represents the convergence of a beloved American design with modern minting technology, resulting in a gorgeous one-ounce coin pure .9999 fine gold coin that became an instant success with the public. The Government guarantees the weight, content and purity of all U.S. investment-grade gold bullion coins, which makes them welcome in investment markets worldwide, plus these pure, 24 karat (.999) fine gold bullion coins are also eligible for Precious Metal IRAs. The coin’s face value is simply symbolic, since the value of the gold is far greater than the legal tender denomination.
Proof Gold Buffalos
American Buffalo Gold Proof Coins are minted specifically for collectors. Many people believe the term “proof” refers to the finish of the coin, when technically, Proof coining is a specialized minting process. Proof coins start with polished, burnished coin blanks and high-pressure coin presses. Coins are struck slowly several times to ensure that the metal fills all the blank’s crevices, bringing out fine details and allowing the softly frosted design to seemingly float above the surface. There are stunning proof finishes including the dramatic reverse proof issues. The U.S. Mint issued a very special Reverse Proof Gold Buffalo anniversary coin in 2013, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Fraser’s original Buffalo Nickel design. A reverse proof means the coin’s features are reversed, a deeply mirrored clear finish design, and a strong, frosted matte appearance on the background surfaces.
Graded Gold Buffalos
Certified graded and uncertified raw Gold coins are available for purchase. Gold Buffalo coins can be bought from single coins, to coin rolls that can buy in bulk for volume discounts. Certified graded coins with special labels, like the gold buffalo first strike edition and various American Gold Buffalo sets make collecting very appealing.
Gold Buffalos that have been certified and graded by either of the two top-tier Grading Services, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), and Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), are in high demand with collectors and numismatists. Graded coins are sonically sealed in tamper-proof acrylic holders, with certified, bar-coded labels to protect the coin from inadvertent damage and ensure longevity. Holding and examining an American Gold Buffalo in your hands is a visual treat. Preserving the coins in PCGS or NGC graded protective holders, means these exquisite gold treasures can be safely passed down to future generations, in the same pristine condition as the day they were graded, without concern of damage.