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American Buffalo Ten Dollar Gold Obverse The 2008 fractional Ten Dollar Buffalo gold coin is like having a pure gold version of the original Buffalo nickel.

American Buffalo Ten Dollar Gold Coin


In 1913, the U.S. mint launched a classic - James Earle Fraser's famed "Buffalo Nickel". The series ran from 1913 to 1938 and was a favorite of coin collectors for generations.

If that were the end of the story, the Buffalo Nickel would have appeared prominently on our list. But fortunately for Buffalo Nickel fans, the mint did one better. It issued a 24-karat version of the nickel - The Buffalo Ten Dollar gold bullion coin. We selected this "gold nickel" as number 3 on our list of essential U.S. coins because it is a beautiful representation of the whole Buffalo Nickel series.

History of the American Buffalo Ten Dollar Gold Coin
The Buffalo Ten Dollar gold bullion coin was a fractional denomination minted only in 2008 as part of the Bison Bullion gold coin series. Although other denominations were also produced in 2008, we single out the Ten Dollar coin not for it's ultra-low mintage (less than 11,000 uncirculated coins were minted), but because of its size. With a diameter of 21.5 mm, the Buffalo Ten Dollar coin is nearly the same size as the original Buffalo Nickel (21.2 mm), and thus the design of the two coins are identical. Scale is important with this coin - The classic James Earle Fraser design with the indian on the front, and bison on the back simply doesn't look quite right when produced on larger or smaller coins.

The Buffalo Ten Dollar coin is the next best thing to owning a gold version of the original Buffalo nickel, and as the first .9999 fine 24-karat gold coins ever struck by the United States Mint, it is a pure gold version. The Buffalo Ten Dollar gold coin bears the original designs by James Earle Fraser, which appeared on the 5-cent coin commonly referred to as the "Buffalo Nickel" produced from 1913 to 1938. The obverse features a representation of a Native American (aka the Indian Head). The reverse features an American Buffalo (also known as Bison). The Buffalo Ten Dollar gold coin has the original reverse design known as the "1913 Type 1" design that features an American Bison standing on a mound. The nickel design was later changed in 1913 in favor of the Type 2 design which has the bison standing on a plain line. That later Type 2 design was used throughout the series until its last year of mintage in 1938.

About the American Buffalo Design
Designer James Earle Fraser was a student of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who designed the top two coins on our list - the Saint-Gaudens Twenty Dollar and the Indian Head Ten Dollar. Fraser Fraser was born in Winona, Minnesota on November 4, 1876, and died on October 11, 1953. In the same year the Buffalo nickel was launched, Fraser married his former student, Laura Gardin Fraser, who later created a beautiful design for the Washington Quarter 1932. While her design was ultimately passed over in favor of John Flanagan's now familiar design, it was used later on the George Washington Five Dollar gold coin in 1999 (Number 5 on our list).

Previous: Indian Head Ten Dollar
Next: Coronet Head Ten Dollar

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American Buffalo Ten Dollar Gold Reverse American Bison on the reverse side of the design.

American Buffalo Ten Dollar Gold Obverse Compared To Original Nickel Although slightly wider in diameter than the original buffalo nickel, the quarter-ounce Buffalo gold coin has a thicker rim that absorbs the size difference leaving the inner design surface area the same on both coins. Note that the mint mark on the gold coin is on the obverse. The W stands for West Point.

American Buffalo Ten Dollar Gold Reverse Compared To Original Nickel The reverse of the Buffalo Ten Dollar gold coin is the "1913 Type 1" design that features an American Bison standing on a mound. The original Type 1 nickel is on the left of this photo shows how similar it is to the gold coin. The Type 2 nickel design is on the right. It shows the bison standing on a plain line. Notice that the mint mark for the original Buffalo nickel is on the reverse under FIVE CENTS. The mint mark is on the obverse on the gold coin.

American Buffalo Ten Dollar Gold Compared To 2001 Silver Dollar The James Earle Fraser design was first introduced as a revival coin used on the 2001 Smithsonian commemorative silver dollar before being used on the 2008 gold coin. Although the designs are identical, many think it looks a bit odd on a larger coin.

2004 Buffalo Nickel The American Bison made a brief return in a new depiction as part of the 2004 Westward Journey nickel series. It was designed by Jamie N. Franki and engraved by Norman E. Nemeth. It's not quite as majestic as Fraser's original design, but it is still nice to see the once nearly extinct bison make a new appearance.