American Gold Buffalos

American Gold Buffalo Coins: A Landmark in 24-Karat Gold Bullion

The American Gold Buffalo, introduced by the US Mint, marks a significant milestone as the inaugural 24-karat gold bullion coin. Released on June 22, 2006, it offers a unique opportunity to invest in gold with relatively low premiums while embracing its timeless design.

This annually released .9999 pure gold coin features identical designs on both the obverse and reverse. Unlike its 22-karat counterpart, the American Gold Eagle, the Gold Buffalo boasts significantly limited mintages due to its 24-karat gold content. Its higher purity makes it physically softer than the American Gold Eagle, necessitating extra care in handling and storage.

Background of US Gold Coins

Historically, the US Mint utilized a 22-karat alloy for its renowned gold coins until 1837. After a 50-year hiatus from producing gold coins, the Mint resumed in 1986 with the introduction of the American Gold Eagle, still using a 22-karat alloy. The unveiling of the American Gold Buffalo in 2006, featuring .9999 pure gold, marked a departure from tradition, surprising the public.

Design Legacy of the American Gold Buffalo

The coin’s design is deeply rooted in American history, drawing inspiration from the iconic Indian Head Nickel design of 1913. Commissioned by President William Taft’s administration, James Earle Fraser—whose mentor was the legendary Augustus Saint-Gaudens—crafted the design. Fraser’s personal experiences among Native American communities in Minnesota inspired him to encapsulate the spirit of these individuals.

The obverse showcases the profile of a Native American Chief, a composite representation of three enigmatic leaders: Iron Tail of the Sioux, Big Tree of the Kiowa, and Two Moons of the Cheyenne. Fraser aimed to symbolize the struggle and resilience of Native Americans against the encroachment of settlers on their lands through this design.

On the reverse, the American Bison, modeled after Black Diamond, stands as Fraser’s subject. Fraser grappled with capturing the bison’s profile as the animal incessantly sought to gaze forward, requiring constant distraction during the portrait sessions. This design echoes Fraser’s aim to convey the physical, social, and emotional hardships faced by Native Americans as their territories were taken over.