American Buffalo Gold - A Reintroduction
Posted by Toby Adkins, Numismatic Scholar for currencyandcoin.com on Apr 27th 2023
The 2023 $50 American Buffalo Gold Proof just released this month. With a mintage limit of just 16,000 coins, gold topping close to all time highs, and the dubious economy, it sparked quite an interest... and more than a few phone calls! The Buffalo gold was first introduced in 2006 and now that we are looking at close to two decades of production, a lot of people don't really have a good grasp on why they even exist.
So when, why, and how did the American Gold Buffalo Program begin?
Around 20 years before! Not necessarily in the Buffalo format but certainly in the content. The American Gold Eagle Program first released gold again in 1986 and purposefully produced coins that were not 24kt. A lot of people questioned this but since the actual gold weight of the American Gold Eagles were in standard sizes the addition of silver and copper seemed inconsequential but some collectors still don't understand today.
Since the introduction of the Gold Eagle Program a lot of other countries started producing 24kt gold coins. So when Congressman Mike Castle brought forth what would become the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005, there was a surprise within. You guessed it The American Buffalo Gold Coins!
The West Point Mint started producing the $50 Buffalo Gold coins in 2006. One of the purposes of the coins were to have a United States 24kt one ounce coin that could compete with other countries on the global market. A notable side note is the legislation also called for the coins gold content be acquired from gold mined from natural deposits within the United States or it's territories. But there was a larger snag they had not considered... how popular the coins would be within the United States.
Th design was familiar to U.S. collectors since it was the same James Earle Fraser design from the 1913 "buffalo nickel." It resonated with the American public and collectors loved the design as well as the 24kt gold content. The popularity was undeniable and collectors wanted more.
With that in mind, the Mint has produced the Buffalo gold coins every year through present day. They have also been produced as bullion, Uncirculated, as well as Proof strikes and a Reverse Proof in 2013. The production has always been the one ounce $50 denomination except for one year. In 2008 the Mint would produce both an Uncirculated and Proof four coin sets consisting of a $5, $10, $25, and $50 denominations. To date, 2008 is the only year of the four coin sets.
Overall, the American Gold Buffalo program has turned into a great success for the United States Mint and collectors in general. It is a real 24kt option that before was not available in a U.S. produced gold coin. Collecting them can be as easy or as hard as you would like! There are many different strikes and dates for these coins and some of the dates and strikes are very rare. If you have already collected some (or all) of the Buffalo gold coins, congratulations! If not, they are definitely worthy coins to seek out. Happy collecting!