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A relative newcomer on the coin scene, the $50 American Buffalo coin began production in 2005. The coin was inspired by the Indian Head or Buffalo nickel that was first introduced almost a hundred years ago in 1913. The designs featured on the American Buffalo coin were created by the American sculptor, James Earle Fraser in the early part of the 20th century. Fraser studied with Augusts Saint-Gaudens. Saint-Gaudens created the image of "Standing Liberty" that is featured on the American Eagle gold coin.
Fraser based his image of the Native American on the Indian Head coin on three separate people. Only two of the individual's names are known today: Chief Iron Tale of the Lakota Sioux and Chief Two Moons of the Cheyenne. Fraser was not able to recall the name of the third man and no written records have been found to solve the mystery.
The bison featured on the reverse side of the coin is believed to have been based on Black Diamond, a bison that was a popular attraction at the New York Zoological Garden.
A proof version of the American Buffalo coin is available at a fixed price for collectors. The proof comes with a certificate of authenticity. The bullion version of the American Buffalo coin is 24-karat gold and is the first .9999 gold coins to be crafted by the U.S. Mint.
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