Today at noon ET the United States Mint began selling the 2009 American Buffalo Gold Proof Coin for $1,360.00, as it announced on Oct. 22.
The one-ounce .9999 fine (24 karat) gold coin is expected to draw significant attention. The US Mint handled early demand in improved fashion compared to the collector blitz and resulting problems that brought its web site down just a few weeks ago with the release of another product, the Lincoln Coin and Chronicles Set.
While there were initial reports of several minute online order delays, that appeared to be the extent of any issue. Phone lines were busy. Some collectors indicated that it took dozens of minutes to get through to a Mint customer service representative, but again, it was unlike their experience of weeks back where there were reports of over an hour of delay and repeated "call back" messages. The Mint added an extra menu option that routed customers to a different queue and standby waiting list, which may have helped.
The Mint’s handling of the Buffalo Gold proof orders on opening day indicates they made improvements, but demand may also have been less intense. The $1,360.00 price point certainly held some customers at bay — especially when considering that gold prices have been dropping for several days and the coins missed out on a $50 price cut by a mere 28.8 cents. (See 28.8 Cents Prevents US Mint Gold Coin Price Reductions.) Many may try and wait for such a cut next week, despite the possibility that the coins could sell out — the Mint has not indicated how many are available, and there are no order limits in place.
The bullion version of the 2009 American Buffalo Coin has current sales figures of 110,500. These versions, which the Mint offers only to authorized purchasers who resell them to the public, were released two weeks ago (Oct. 15). As a perspective in how strong demand has been, 172,000 were sold in the entire year of 2008. It looks as if the 2009s will outpace that number in a few short weeks.
Both the obverse and reverse of the Buffalo coin are the same basic design that first appeared on the 1913 circulating nickel, commonly known by most as either the "Indian Head Nickel" or the "Buffalo Nickel."
The obverse has a portrait of a Native American, said to be a composite of three Indian chiefs. Many have claimed to be one of those three models, but only two were ever verified by the artist James Earle Fraser; Cheyenne Chief Two Moons and Lakota Sioux Chief Iron Tail.
The reverse contains an image of an American buffalo, also known as a bison. It is believed by many to be modeled after the creature named "Black Diamond" who lived in the New York City Zoo.