Stampede of Buffalo Gold Coins
By C. D. Daughtrey ……..
Every so often the United States Mint releases a new coin issue that creates quite a buzz in the numismatic community. In case you have missed it, this has actually happened twice this year (2013). The first occurrence was with the two-coin Silver Eagle set issued by the West Point Mint in early June. Both of the coins in the set were firsts; an ‘Enhanced Uncirculated’ coin and the first W-Mint Reverse Proof Silver Eagle. The second occurrence, and the focus of this article, was the release of a 2013-W Reverse Proof $50 Buffalo Gold coin in August.
Buffalo Gold coins were the first U. S. issued gold coins to contain 24 karat, 99.99% pure gold. Their manufacture was in response to the world bullion market reaching that fineness, what would soon become the de-facto standard. Since the United States had never issued a coin of such fineness, and since James Earle Fraser’s 1913 “Buffalo Nickel” design had been wildly popular when rebirthed as a commemorative silver coin in 2001, a fitting marriage was made and the first 2006 dated Buffalo Gold one-ounce $50 coins were released in July of that year.
Since their debut seven years ago the Buffalo Gold coin has become a staple of collectors and investors alike. Through the history of the series the Mint has made uncirculated, burnished, and proof finish coins, and has even made fractional Buffalo Gold sizes, limited to coins dated 2008.
The first ‘Reverse Proof’ United States coins were a one-ounce Silver Eagle and one-ounce Gold Eagle, both minted in 2006 to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Eagle program, which first debuted in 1986. They were followed the next year with the 2007 issue of a half-ounce Platinum Eagle to commemorate the tenth anniversary of that series.
The combination of these two ideas were met with much anticipation in the marketplace when the Mint announced that they would be releasing a $50 one-ounce 99.99% fine Reverse Proof Buffalo Gold coin early in 2013. The coin’s issue was to be in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary since the design’s first use in 1913.
Although the coin was announced on May 16th in conjunction with the sale date of the regular proof Buffalo Gold coin, its exact appearance would remain a mystery to the general public until their first public unveiling at the ANA National Money Show in New Orleans on May 9th. Even then, high-quality detailed images were not available until the coin’s surprise on-site release and sale at the 2013 ANA World’s Fair of Money in Chicago.
All the attention of the show turned to this hot new issue as soon as everyone caught wind of their availability. This went largely under the radar as it was only mentioned briefly in a press release just days prior where the focus was on the BEP. Dealers and collectors clambered to buy their show limit and submit them to NGC and PCGS, who were quick to create specially worded labels for on-site grading of the coins. The U.S. Mint offered a mere 2000 coins at the show, all of which were quickly sold.
The “ANA Chicago” labeled coins were an instant hit. Prices for proof 70 graded coins quickly exceeded $3,000 – nearly double the initial issue price. The number of coins graded at the show with this special label wording is very limited, which in turn created the demand to support such prices.
Coins graded after the show and within the first 30 days from the time each grading service (NGC and PCGS) received the first coins for submission are eligible for the NGC ‘Early Releases’ or ‘First Releases’ labels or the PCGS ‘First Strike’ designation labels.
NGC has a number of choices for this issue. They have revived the ‘black core’ holder and made it available for this issue coupled with their attractive ‘buffalo’ label. The same ‘buffalo’ label or the blue Early or First Releases labels are also available in the regular white core holder. Additionally, with the special ‘buffalo’ label, NGC is giving the choice to include or omit a line of text that reads, “100TH ANNIVERSARY.”
PCGS choices include the ‘First Strike’ labels with either the U.S. flag or a buffalo in the upper left corner, and the PCGS “Black Diamond’ label with ‘First Strike’ mentioned in the label’s overprint.
The graded coins began hitting the market almost immediately and numerous dealers have reported stellar sales. John Maben, CEO of ModernCoinMart, had this to say about the demand for graded coins; “I can hardly remember another issue at this price level that sold so quickly. Between direct purchases from the Mint and from other dealers so far we’ve bought over 1500 coins and in just weeks have less than 100 remaining in inventory”.
Kudos to the United States Mint for a smashing success of a coin and for making it available to any collector, investor, or dealer in any quantity during the 30 day window of sales that resulted in nearly 50,000 sold.
Charles D. Daughtrey is an accomplished numismatist, artist and published author who has worked in the Modern Coin industry with John Maben Rare Coins, Inc. (www.ModernCoinMart.com) since 2008 as its Marketing Director, Senior Photographer, and Numismatic Writer. ModernCoinMart is one of the leading dealers of Modern Coins and bullion in the nation.