Every year since 2006, when the series began, collectors and gold investors have looked forward to the launch of the each year’s new American Buffalo Gold $50 1 oz. coin. 2016 will mark the 10th anniversary of this important coin, the first .9999 fine gold bullion coin ever issued by the U.S. Mint.
In addition to meeting the demand for an American gold bullion coin made to the global standard with no alloys, this coin has also been a perennial favorite of gold stackers and coin collectors because of its striking, classic design.
Beloved for its beauty and its quintessential Americanness, the Buffalo gold piece uses the 1913 Buffalo nickel design of James Earl Fraser. The $50 gold coin brings the design to another level with its much larger canvas than the nickel, as well as the use of the latest minting technologies to draw contrast between the design and the fields.
The obverse depicts a Native American Chieftain that is believed to be a composite of chiefs from three tribes, while the reverse is adorned with an American Bison. Both images harken back to the roots of the American nation and the importance of the Western portion of the country to the American self-image.
These coins are popular with those who want to invest in gold by purchasing a well-established and recognizable gold coin, whose purity and weight are backed by the U.S. government. It is also legal tender for $50!
Over the years, many people have also put together complete date sets of this great coin, which may consist of ungraded or professionally-graded coins. Sets of NGC and PCGS-graded Mint State 70 and Proof 70 coins are especially popular for their superb quality.
Most years, this coin sells about 200,000 units. For 2015, as of early December, 220,500 coins were sold. The lowest mintage coin is the 2012 issue with just 100,000 coins sold, and the highest mintage was in 2006 with 337,012 coins sold. First year coins are typically very popular, and there was pent-up demand that year from buyers who wanted an American gold bullion coin made of pure gold.
Many U.S. coin and gold buyers prefer to purchase gold products made by the U.S. Mint, rather than coins from foreign mints.
New for 2016
The Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Saving Act that became law on December 4 includes various provisions giving the Mint the authority to change the silver composition of collector coins and to add special 30th anniversary incuse edge letting to the numismatic versions of the American Silver Eagle coins produced in 2016.
The law also includes provisions which establish the American Buffalo gold coin as the permanent .9999 fine gold bullion coin of the U.S. Mint, which means it is here to stay.
In addition, it includes a provision that may result in changing the way the Buffalo gold coins are packaged starting in 2016. Until now, these coins have always been packaged in flat plastic sheets with individual compartments for each coin, and the sheets are then stacked on top of each other in shipping cartons. The legislation would allow the coins to be shipped in 20-coin tubes instead of in the rather bulky sheets.
It would also be easier for dealers and those who purchase full rolls to store the coins in tubes rather than in sheets, since the tubes take up much less space.
Since 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of this flagship gold bullion product, there has been a lot of speculation about what the Mint might do to mark this special occasion.
It is unlikely the bullion coin will see any major change for the anniversary, but the proof version released later in the year could be struck with some type of special finish, or perhaps in high relief.
In 2013 to honor the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Buffalo nickel design, the Mint issued the reverse proof version of the coin.
Some collectors have also said they would like to see a permanent design change in 2016, but that seems unlikely given the widespread popularity of the classic design of the coin, especially to those collectors who collected Buffalo nickels in their youth, and those legions of collectors who have a preference for classic U.S. coin designs of the past.
Besides, the design is really what defines the coin and makes it so special, and the Mint has in the past preferred to follow a cautious approach when it comes to coin design changes. In 2015, for example, it decided against changing the reverse of the American Silver Eagle.
The only current bullion coin program that features changing designs is the American Platinum Eagle proof coin.
Whatever ends up happening to this coin program in 2016, the American Buffalo gold coin has left an indelible mark on gold coinage and will remain a major factor in the bullion and numismatic arenas for many years to come.
||Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and American Hard Assets. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|