In the first installment of our Best Gold series, we're starting with a legendary gold bullion coin from the premier sovereign mint in the states. Of course, we're speaking about the US Mint, and the coin in question is none other than the American Gold Buffalo.
The Gold Buffalo, commonly referred to as the gold "Buff," is PIMBEX Co-Founder Michael's personal favorite! "It was the US Mint's answer to the pure gold question." And it was the perfect answer.
The American Gold Buffalo is truly a work of art, a thing of beauty, and perhaps the most captivating modern gold bullion coin today. Pure, 24-karat gold branded with sharp strikes and radiating brilliant mint luster. There's nothing quite like the American Gold Buffalo's bold design. It impresses through both its visual appeal and historical significance.
- The American Gold Buffalo is the first pure gold bullion coin released from the US Mint.
- Similar to the American Gold Eagle, the Gold Buffalo must be minted from "gold mined from natural deposits in the United States." It's the law.
- In 2008, the US Mint released a small batch of 99.99% Gold Buffalo fractional coins in ½, ¼, and 1/10th troy ounce sizes. This run was quite limited, and today those gold sets are highly collectible.
- The American Gold Buffalo generated over $585 million in revenue in 2021 for the US Mint, which accounted for 10.7% of total revenue between their Circulating, Bullion, and Numismatic products.
The story of the American Gold Buffalo is steeped in lore and begins well before the 2006 initial release. In fact, the US Mint lifted the exact design from another historical treasure, the 1913 Buffalo Nickel.
At the turn of the 20th century, President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt sought to breathe new life into American coinage, setting in motion a series of significant redesigns that eventually landed on Charles Barber's Liberty Head "V" nickel.
Various artists submitted designs, most of which featured our first president, George Washington, but none of them made the cut. Then, in 1911, American Sculptor James Earle Fraser put pen to paper and created the illustrations we know today. The US Mint quickly commissioned the new Buffalo nickel to replace the V nickel. Don't worry; our beloved President Washington ultimately landed on the Quarter dollar, where he remains to this day!
According to Fraser, the Buffalo nickel's obverse is the combined depiction of three prominent Native American chieftains, Iron Tail, a Sioux, Big Tree, a Kiowa, and Two Moons, a Cheyenne in a profile shot. The words "Liberty" and the mintage year are included above and below the profile. The reverse design is an American bison standing on the plains, but the final inspiration came from Black Diamond, a 1,500-pound feature attraction of the Bronx Zoo in New York. The words "United States of America," "E Pluribus Unum," and "Five Cents" are stamped alongside.
But how did Fraser come up with the idea for the Buffalo nickel?
James Earle Fraser was born in 1876 in Winona, Minnesota, and was submersed in frontier life from an early age. His father, Thomas, worked as an engineer for the railroad companies and was one of the men sent to recover remains from Custer's Last Stand, a task that proved perspective shifting. Early life lessons engrained in Fraser a more nuanced viewpoint of Native American history and left a lasting impression that significantly impacted his life's work.
The Buffalo nickel design was arguably his most famous contribution to the world and had an incredible production run from 1913 to 1938. In total, over 1.2 billion Buffalo nickels entered circulation!
Entering 2005, the US Mint discovered a gap in its retail offering and sought to expand its retail market share. The US Mint's 22-karat American Gold Eagle is a significant revenue driver for their retail bottom line. But cultural lines have been drawn against gold coins deemed "unpure," and the US Mint knew it could broaden its customer base. Some gold bullion investors heavily favor pure golds coins, and some outright refuse anything below the 24-karat mark.
Supplying this previously untapped gold retail demand would open new doors for the US Mint, and they wanted to leave a mark. For this reason, Congress selected the Buffalo nickel as the blueprint for the US Mint's newest addition. A classic design for a historic gold piece, it makes perfect sense. The Gold Buffalo reaches 99.99% purity, an accomplishment matched by only a handful of rival offerings, including the gold standard in investment-grade purity, the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf.
Historically minted at a fraction of the rate versus the American Gold Eagle, there is approximately one 1 oz American Gold Buffalo for every three 1 oz Gold Eagle since 2006. And for the sake of comparison, we're ignoring the additional 1.5 million gold troy ounces that fractional Gold Eagle coins contributed to the American Eagle Coin Program totals since 2006.
Retailing for the same price as the American Gold Eagle while being minted at a lower rate and universally accepted everywhere, the American Gold Buffalo serves a unique role as both an investment and collectible gold coin.
The American Gold Buffalo is a sound, investment-grade heirloom that perfectly fits every precious metal investor's portfolio. Still, the Gold Buffalo is much more than just a gold bullion coin; it's a timeless piece of American history.