The American Buffalo, also known as a gold buffalo, is a 24-karat bullion coin first offered for sale by the United States Mint on June 22, 2006, and available for shipment beginning on July 13. The coin follows the design of the Indian Head nickel and has gained its nickname from the American Bison on the reverse side of the design. This was the first time ever that the United States Government has minted pure (.9999) 24-karat gold coins for the public.
The coin has a legal tender (face) value of US$50. Due to a combination of the coin’s popularity and the tremendous increase in the price of gold since its creation the coin’s value has increased considerably in a short time of just a few years. The initial 2006 U.S. Mint price of the proof coin was $800.The design of the American Buffalo gold bullion coin is a modified version of James Earle Fraser’s design for the Indian Head nickel (Type 1), issued in early 1913. After a raised mound of dirt below the animal on the reverse was reduced, the Type 2 variation continued to be minted for the rest of 1913 and every year until 1938, except for 1922, 1932, and 1933 when no nickels were struck. Generally, Fraser’s Indian Head nickel design is regarded as among the best designs of any U.S. coins. The same design also was used on the 2001 Smithsonian commemorative coin.The obverse (front) of the coin depicts a Native American, whom Fraser said he created as a mixture of the features of three chiefs from different American Indian tribes, Big Tree, Iron Tail, and Two Moons, who posed as models for him to sketch. The obverse also shows the motto “LIBERTY” on the top right, the year of mintage on the bottom left, and below that the letter F for Fraser.