Today, August 8, 2013 at 12:00 Noon ET, the United States Mint will begin sales for the 2013 Reverse Proof American Gold Buffalo. This coin is being issued to mark the 100th anniversary of James Earle Fraser’s classic design.
The obverse of the coin features a profile portrait of a Native American based on a composite of three real life models. The reverse depicts an American Bison or “buffalo” which is believed to have been modeled after Black Diamond of the Central Park Zoo. This design was used for the Indian Head or Buffalo Nickel issued for circulation from 1913 to 1938. With the series representing a favorite amongst collectors, the design was reused for the 2001 American Buffalo Commemorative Silver Dollar. In 2006, the design was also chosen for the ongoing 24 karat American Gold Buffalo bullion and collector coin series.
Earlier this year, the US Mint issued the standard one ounce bullion version of the 2013 Gold Buffalo. This was followed on May 23, 2013 by the traditional one ounce proof coin, which features a frosted design against mirrored background fields. The one ounce reverse proof version offered today features the opposite of the traditional proof finish, with mirrored design elements against frosted background fields.
The 2013 Reverse Proof Gold Buffalo is being offered during a four week ordering window from August 8, 2013 until September 5, 2013 at 5:00 PM ET. There is no mintage limit and no household ordering limit established, rather production will be based on customer demand during the specified ordering window. The US Mint has used an ordering window rather than specific mintage limit for other recent special products.
The initial price for the offering is $1,640 based on a weekly average gold price in the $1,250 to $1,299.99 range. The price may vary weekly during the period of availability based on fluctuations in the market price of gold.
For past offerings which utilized an ordering window, the US Mint has posted a sales odometer on the product page, which has been updated each weekday with an estimated sales total. I have not seen any confirmation on whether the US Mint will use a similar sales counter for the current offering, but it seems likely. If not, weekly updates would be available through the regular reporting.
History and Considerations
Anticipation for this offering has been building for some time. Collectors were first made aware of the possibility of an American Buffalo Coin with a reverse proof finish from a survey distributed in late 2012. The offering was officially confirmed in May 2013, with an actual example of the coin displayed at the ANA National Money Show. The final details were announced in mid-July.
This will represent only the second reverse proof gold coin offered by the US Mint, after the reverse proof American Gold Eagle released in 2006 as part of a limited mintage 20th anniversary set.
This will also be only the second year that the Mint has offered additional numismatic versions of the American Gold Buffalo beyond the typical one ounce proof coin. In 2008, offerings were vastly expanded with the addition of fractional weight proof coins as well as one ounce and fractional collectible uncirculated coins. The expanded offerings were canceled after only the single year of issue.
The 2013 Reverse Proof Gold Buffalo should enjoy a strong pace of orders due to its status as a special issue of a popular series. I expect that demand would easily surpass that of the regular 2013 Proof Gold Buffalo, which has reached sales of 12,297 as of the latest sales report.
As mentioned in the past, it seems possible that the offering of the special reverse proof coin may cannibalize some demand from the regular proof version of the coin. Some collectors who can only budget for one of the coins may opt for the special issue rather than the standard. The choice may be swayed even more by the fact that both coins carry identical pricing. If sales for the regular 2013 Proof Gold Buffalo are weakened by a significant amount, this may set up for the possibility of a sleeper hit down the road.
This is not to say that there is not also future potential for the 2013 Reverse Proof Gold Buffalo. Both supply and demand play a role in the secondary market prices for coins. Despite the likely greater mintage of reverse proof coins, the issue should command elevated market demand as a special issue, particularly if the reverse proof finish is not repeated in future years of the series.
Looking towards the weeks ahead, it seems likely that the use of the four week ordering window will put sales on the same sort of roller coaster ride seen for other offerings. There will most likely be a flurry of orders during the initial hours of availability, with the hopes that the orders placed the earliest will ship the earliest. This would be followed by a retrenchment in the pace of orders to slower but stable demand for much of the ordering window until a spike in demand during the final few days of availability. It is possible that the Gold Buffalo may also see some spikes in ordering related to pricing, which may be adjusted as frequently as weekly in response to changes in the average market price of gold.