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2017 American Buffalo Gold Coin Released

May 23, 2017 0 Comments

The annual release of a new American Buffalo Gold Coin has become a small ritual each year since 2006, when the US Mint released the first one. The design of the coin is based on the famous ‘buffalo nickel’ from 1913, designed by James Earle Fraser. That coin was discontinued in 1938, but it was revived in 2001 as a commemorative coin, and then in 2006 as the one ounce gold coin discussed here.


James Earle Fraser is an iconic figure in American art, and he is most famous for major statues and memorials in Washington, D.C. These monumental pieces include figures called ‘Authority of Law’ and ‘Contemplation of Justice’ at the US Supreme Court Building; the Alexander Hamilton monument at the US Treasury; and statues and the grand pediment carving at the National Archives and Records Building. Outside Washington he created a bronze statue of General George S. Patton at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, and the Benjamin Franklin Memorial at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. These works are in a neo-classical style, but his earlier work was more naturalistic. During his childhood in the late 19th century, he grew up in Minnesota, exposed to frontier life. His expose to Native Americans made him create early carvings of them – especially his famous ‘End of the Trail’ figure on horseback, probably based on Chief John Big Tree. It was Fraser’s interest in these people that earned him the commission for the original Buffalo nickel, also known as the Indian Head. He died in 1953 at Westport, Connecticut.

The coin – and its gold replica – features on the obverse a profile representation of a Native American, with the word LIBERTY in the upper right hand corner. The reverse shows an American Buffalo, also called the American bison. This great beast, known to scientists as Bison bison, roamed the prairies in their millions, before being pushed to the edge of extinction by both white and native hunters in the 1800s. The total population fell to just 541, but today, thanks to breeding programs, there are around half-a-million animals left. Large males can weigh 2,000 pounds, yet jump 6 feet in the air. On its two sides, this iconic coin captures the essence of the old West, so it is no surprise that original 1913 nickels are still popular collectors’ items.

The 2017 Gold Buffalo coin is solid .9999 fine, 24-karat gold, weighing exactly one troy ounce. Above the buffalo on the reverse are the words ‘United States of America’, and ‘E Pluribus Unum’. Below is the denomination of $50, and the words ‘1 oz. .9999 Pure Gold’. To the left are the word ‘In God We Trust’. The obverse has the mint mark ‘W’ for West Point Mint, where the coin is made. Although denominated at $50, the coin sells for $1,590, with a Certificate of Authenticity and mounted in a fine wooden box, with the seal of the US Treasury.

Both as a collectors’ item, and as an investment in the future price of gold, this coin, with its iconic design by America’s greatest sculptor, deserves a place in every collection with the capital resources to own it.

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