Sold-Out Buffalo Coin Is Gold Standard of Loose Change

The profile of a Native American graces the flip side of American buffalo gold coins.
The profile of a Native American graces the flip side of American buffalo gold coins. (Associated Press)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 27, 2008

The mighty buffalo may have made a comeback on the Great Plains, but he no longer roams the halls of the U.S. Mint. Much as the beasts were overhunted by frontiersmen, gold buffalo coins have been pushed to the edge of extinction by gold hoarders.

The U.S. Mint is temporarily halting sales of its American Buffalo 24-carat gold one-ounce bullion coin because "inventories have been depleted," Mint spokesman Michael White said yesterday. The coin, based on a 1913 design, was released in 2006.

The Mint cannot keep up with demand from panicky investors looking for something -- anything -- that seems safe during the current market crisis. Auric Goldfinger would be proud.

Through Wednesday, the Mint had sold 164,000 24-carat gold coins this year, which is nearly 30,000 more than during all of 2007.

The price of gold has risen in recent weeks. Gold for December delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange jumped temporarily above $920 per ounce yesterday, as concerns rose over the stalled $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill, fueling fears of a further stock market drop. The precious metal closed at $888.50 yesterday.

On the Mint's Web site, the coin sold for $800 before it was taken off the market.

The Mint had to suspend sales of its American Eagle one-ounce gold coins Aug. 15, restarting sales later in the month under an allocation program. The Mint will soon do the same for its buffalo coins. As soon as it mints more.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company