On June 3, 2010, the US Mint will begin sales of the 2010 American Gold Buffalo Proof Coin.
The American Gold Buffalo takes its design from the iconic 1913 Type I Buffalo Nickel by James Earle Fraser. The obverse depicts the profile of a Native American based on a composite of three chiefs and the reverse depicts an American Bison or Buffalo. Each coin contains one ounce of 24 karat gold. Produced at the West Point Mint, the coins carry the “W” mint mark.
Based on recent gold prices, it seems that the offering will be priced at $1,510 each. The US Mint has indicated that there are no ordering limits or maximum mintage for the offering.
This year’s release of a collectible version of the 24 karat gold coin will take place much earlier than the prior year. The 2009 Proof Gold Buffalo coins went on sale October 29, 2009 after some uncertainty as to whether the coins would be offered at all. The pent up demand following almost a year without collectible Gold Buffaloes and heightened performance expectations following the secondary market success of the 2008-W Gold Buffalo Coins perhaps contributed to heavy initial sales of the coin. After only four days, the US Mint had recorded sales of 19,468. The coins eventually sold out on March 29, 2010 with last reported sales of 49,388.
This year’s offering of the 2010 Proof Gold Buffalo seems like it will carry a much different impression. If the price of gold remains within the current range, then the offering price will be $1,510 per coin, which is $150 above last year’s initial price level. The coins are being released earlier in the year, which may remove some of the sense of urgency which existed last year. Finally, the 2009 proof coins have not been secondary market successes so far. The coins are selling for around $1,400 based on recently completed eBay auctions, which right around the price of the coins when last available directly from the US Mint. It always seems that secondary market appreciation spurs higher sales levels for the next offering of product in the next offering, and vice versa.
Despite these factors, the Gold Buffalo series does seem to carry a dedicated base of collectors. These coins will also represent the only numismatic gold coin offering besides the First Spouse Gold Coins.
If you are rooting for a low mintage for the 2010 Proof Gold Buffalo, one factor that may come into play to help make this a reality is the current elevated demand for bullion coins. During May 2010, the US Mint sold 70,500 Gold Buffalo bullion coins and recorded the highest monthly sales of one ounce Gold Eagle bullion coins since 1999.
Continuing high demand or escalating demand may cause a scarcity of precious metals blanks that can impact collector offerings. As we have seen in the past, the US Mint will prioritize the production of bullion coins over the production of collector coins, although in the case of the Gold Buffalo, I don’t believe this is a legal requirement.