American Buffalo Commemorative Coin

Commemorative Coin Programs


The American Buffalo Commemorative Coin was available from the U.S. Mint from June 7, 2001, until it sold out on June 21, 2001. The authorized mintage limit was 500,000 coins. The coin commemorates the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian. The design recreates the famous Buffalo Nickel minted from 1913 to 1938. That design features two American icons: a Native American profile and an American buffalo.

Three different Native Americans – Chief Iron Tail, Chief Big Tree and Chief Two Moons – modeled for Fraser for the coin. All three were performers in Wild West shows in New York City. The buffalo model came from the Central Park Zoo.

Fraser (1876-1953) was known for his famous western sculpture, “The End of the Trail.” He also designed the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition Medal; the Victory Army and Navy medal; the Navy Cross Medal; and the Norse-American Centennial medal.

The National Museum of the American Indian

The fate of the American Buffalo – or bison – was linked to the fate of the Native American, and vice versa. Native Americans hunted the bison and used the carcass for everything from shelter and food to needles and cooking implements—they were known for wasting nothing.

The study of Native Americans, including their language, literature, history, art and anthropology, is the purpose of the proposed National Museum of the American Indian. The museum will feature more than 10,000 years of American history. The 260,000 square foot museum is scheduled to open on the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol in 2004 and is expected to attract about 6 million visitors a year.

Ground was broken for the museum on September 28, 1999.

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Recipient Organization: National Museum of the American Indian

The coin was authorized to commemorate the National Museum of the American Indian of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum's opening, and to supplement the museum's ongoing endowment and educational funds. A surcharge of $10 per coin helped fund the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian and to supplement to endowment and educational outreach efforts of the museum.

Commemorative Coin Surcharges

Commemorative coin programs are created by acts of Congress to honor a person, place, or event. Surcharges from the sales of these coins help fund a variety of organizations and projects that benefit the public. Commemorative coins are only available from the United States Mint for a limited time, as specified by public law.


The obverse (heads) design shows the profile of a Native American.

The reverse (tails) design bears the image of an American buffalo (also known as a bison).

Obverse Inscriptions


Reverse Inscriptions

  • 2001

Mint and Mint Mark

Artist Information

  • Designer: James Earle Fraser

Related Information

Content last reviewed February 23, 2021

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