The American Gold Buffalo, an official gold bullion coin of the United States of America, was first released into circulation by the U.S. Mint in 2006 after the successful passage of the Presidential $1 Coin Act in 2005. It was the first time that the U.S. Mint, established under Congress’ Coinage Act of 1972, had ever struck a coin in 24-karat gold. The annual coin is now on its 11th year of mintage with the release of the 2017 American Gold Buffalo coin.
Comprised of one troy ounce of 99.99% pure gold with no metal alloys added, the American Gold Buffalo is well known in the numismatic world for its stringent purity standards and noteworthy design. The coin carries a legal tender face value of US$50, and its purity, weight, and content are guaranteed by both the U.S. government and the U.S. Mint.
The obverse and reverse designs of the American Gold Buffalo bullion coin were previously featured on the Buffalo Nickel, an American 5-cent coin that circulated from 1913 to 1938. Designed by renowned sculptor James Earle Fraser, a protégé of the famous Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the artwork inspires nostalgia and preserves the history of life in the U.S. before westward expansion.
A full body profile of the mighty American bison is the centerpiece of the American Gold Buffalo’s reverse design. It is reported that Fraser’s inspiration for the mighty bison came from an American bison named Black Diamond who resided at a New York zoological park. He would spend hours observing the animal in order to capture its form with accuracy, and his attention to precision and exquisite craftsmanship is evident by the pronounced features and distinct curvature seen in the illustration. “In God We Trust” and “E Pluribus Unum,” two recognizably American mottos, are engraved in the scene’s remaining open space around the figure. Arched in bold letters across the top of the coin is its country of origin, “United States of America,” and its specifications are documented on the mound below the bison’s hooves: “$50 1 Oz. .9999 Fine Gold.”
The obverse of the coin spotlights a right-facing portrait of a Native American chief. Fraser combined the features of three Native American tribe chiefs – Chief Iron Tail of the Lakota Sioux, Chief Two Moons of the Cheyenne, and Chief Big Tree of the Kiowa – in order to create an authentic depiction. The word “Liberty” is beautifully inscribed in the top right corner of the coin, and its mint year is marked on the chief’s shoulder. Fraser incorporated his signature on the obverse of the coin in the form of a small “F” located directly beneath “2017.”