Back in 1985, Congress wisely passed the Gold Bullion Coin Act, authorizing the creation of official American gold bullion coins for the first time in our nation’s history. This was quickly followed by legislation authorizing silver, platinum, and (most recently) palladium bullion coins.

The first gold bullion coins struck by the U.S. Mint were the exquisite one-ounce American Eagle gold bullion coins, which I discussed in detail in a recent article.

Gold Eagles of all values are 91.67% pure gold, with the balance made up of silver and copper for purposes of hardening the alloy; however, a full measure of gold is included, so the coins weigh a bit more than the stated weight.

This isn’t the case for the American Buffalo, a gem of a coin first released in 2006: the Buffalo is 99.99% pure. It takes the form of an enlarged Buffalo nickel, with a slightly modified version of James Earle Frasier’s 1913 American Indian portrait on the obverse and the familiar bison on the reverse. The American Buffalo coin has a $50 face value for legal tender purposes, but of course it’s worth at least the spot value of an ounce of gold; possibly more, if it’s an undamaged proof.

Like all precious metal coins, the rim of the American Buffalo is reeded (ridged) to discourage trimming. The coin itself measures 32.7 mm in diameter and is 2.95 mm thick.

If you were wondering why the Mint bothered striking Buffaloes in the first place, given the wildly popular American Eagle series, it’s because there’s a segment of the investing population that prefers 24K gold to the 22K gold the Eagle is struck from. Despite the fact that there’s still a full ounce of gold in the one-ounce eagles, too many investors were choosing Canadian Maple Leafs and similar pure-gold coins for investing purposes instead.

Do you own any American Buffalo gold coins? Considering buying any? Let me know by commenting below.