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When is a nickel worth more than a nickel? When its designs are brought to the purest coins that a country issues. Matching the .9999 fine purity of Canada's Gold Maple Leaf and Gold Maple Leaf Proof, this 2018 Gold Buffalo Proof is the latest issue of America's purest gold bullion series. The series is extremely popular for several reasons. One of those is that it takes the designs of a classic American coin and brings them to collectors as a gold Proof that is produced with the latest minting technology, enabling the holder to examine each detail just as it was intended. Another is that the Proof is backed for both weight and purity by the United States government. Each Gold Buffalo Proof is struck at the West Point Mint and bears that mint's "W" Mint mark. That is significant for many American collectors because West Point is not only home to an important Mint but is also home of the United States Military Academy.
In 1982, Canada made their annual gold bullion issue, the Maple Leaf, even purer, raising their previous standard of .999 fine to .9999 fine. The United States issued its first modern bullion coin, the American Gold Eagle (AGE), in 1986. To this day, issues in that series are .9167 fine. Midway through the last decade, the United States decided that it was time to end Canada's dominance in the realm of purity and began issuing the American Gold Buffalo and Gold Buffalo Proof. The coins matched the purity of the Gold Maple Leafs, but they were backed by the United States government rather than the Canadian one. The designs for the coin came from a favorite coin of America's past, James Earle Fraser's Buffalo Nickel. Since its inception, only one-ounce versions of the coin have been issued, with the exception of 2008, when fractional pieces were also issued. Twelve years after the series began, the Gold Buffalo and Gold Buffalo Proof continue to be favorites among collectors not only in the United States but also throughout the rest of the world.
Like previous issues of Gold Buffalo coins, both proof and bullion, the 2018 Proof features the designs that first appeared on James Earle Fraser's Buffalo nickel. In designing that coin, Fraser set about to create a coin that would immediately be recognizable as American to collectors throughout the world. To that end, he created an obverse design that features a Native American man. The right-side portrait shows the aging man has distinct facial features that, like the feathers tied up at the back of his head, immediately give away his heritage. His long, straight hair is tied down over his shoulders, and the word "LIBERTY" is inscribed in the upper right.
The reverse image features an American bison, a creature that is native to the plains of the United States and Canada. Fraser did an exceptional job of capturing the massive animal's size through his full use of the diameter of the coin. Several inscriptions are included in the remaining space, including the coin's face value, "$50," as well as its weight and purity.