On June 7, 2001 the U.S. Mint made the 2001-D Buffalo Commemorative Dollars available to the public for the first time. Immediately upon the first day of sales, the U.S. Mint was flooded with phone calls, and collectors who were unable to get through the phone lines had no choice but to purchase the coins in the aftermarket at a very high premium.
On the same day the coins were released, customers with confirmed orders of the Special Coin and Currency sets which contained a 2001 Buffalo Commemorative Dollar, for as much as $200 each, and sometimes even more. The same sets had just been purchased by collectors directly from the U.S. Mint for $54.95 each.
The alluring obverse design of the 2001 Buffalo dollar depicts a combination of three different Indian chiefs who had posed for James Earle Fraser sometime in the early 1900s. This same obverse design was previously used on Buffalo nickels from 1913 to 1938. The composite of the three chiefs in the design included Chief Iron Tail, Chief Big Tree and Chief Two Moons. These three chiefs were performing at Wild West shows in New York City when they originally modeled for Frasier. The 2001 Buffalo dollar reverse represents the same distinctive and nostalgic design used for the Type One 1913 Buffalo nickels. Type One Buffalo nickels display a buffalo standing at the top of a mound. Type Two Buffalo nickels display a buffalo standing above a flat base.
For the 2001 Buffalo commemorative dollars, the reverse design was slightly modified when compared to the original Buffalo nickel design. First, by adding the motto "In God We Trust," which is elegantly arched above the Buffalo on the reverse of 2001-D Buffalo dollars. Originally, the motto was nonexistent on Buffalo nickels, since at the time, it was not required by law. In addition, the inscriptions "E Pluribus Unum" located above the lower back of the buffalo on Buffalo nickels were also moved. These inscriptions were now placed below the buffalo's head on 2001 Buffalo dollars.
The buffalo reverse design originated from Black Diamond, a 1,550-pound bison located in New York's Central Park Zoo in the early 1900s. Therefore, the actual image on the coin portrays a model of an American Bison as opposed to a buffalo. However, for decades this historical design has been recognized and accepted with the nomenclature of a buffalo.
While producing the 2001-D Buffalo dollars, the U.S. Mint increased the tonnage pressure used to strike the coins. The Mint also struck mint state coins three times each. Both of these procedures would be instrumental in portraying a beautiful and jaw-dropping appearance on every single 2001 Buffalo dollar that the U.S. Mint produced. Furthermore, mint state coins were also struck at less than 230 tons of striking pressure. This is a larger amount of pressure that is used to strike other commemorative coins. Regular uncirculated commemorative coins are usually struck only once and under lower tonnage pressure.
Buffalo Design Proposed to Congress
The 2001 Buffalo dollar coins exist today thanks to Ben Nighthorse Campbell from Colorado. Campbell was one of 44 chiefs from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. It all began in 1995, when Campbell proposed the reintroduction of the buffalo design on a U.S. coin. Campbell's original proposal was to produce a five-cent coin made out of silver depicting the historical buffalo design. However, his proposal was turned down by Congress numerous times.
But persistence paid off. Five years later and after numerous attempts, Campbell's proposal was finally accepted. However, Mint officials concluded that the buffalo design was more appropriate on a commemorative coin. Either way, Campbell was instrumental and successful in resurrecting the buffalo and Indian head chief design.
2001 Buffalo Commemorative Dollars Signed into Law
On October 27, 2000, President Clinton signed and approved the 2001 Buffalo Commemorative coin design into public law. Because of Campbell's hard work and tenacity, his wish would finally come to fruition. On May 4 2001, the Denver Mint then struck the first 2001-D Mint State Buffalo dollars. And to top it off, Campbell was allowed to run the Denver Mint press and strike the first mint state coins bearing the "D" mintmark. Proof coins were also struck with the same design but with a "P" mint mark, since they were struck at the Philadelphia Mint.
- From June 7 until July 25, 2001, the U.S. Mint began taking advance orders for four different coin options of the 2001 Buffalo Dollars.
- The pre-issue price for the single uncirculated coin was $30. The regular-issue price for the mint state coin was $32.
- The pre-issue price for the Single Proof was $33, and $37 at the regular-issue price.
- Pre-issue prices for the two-coin set containing a Proof and Uncirculated coin was $59.95, and $64.95 at the regular issue price.
- Finally, for the Coin and Currency Set, the pre-issue price was $54.95, and the regular-issue price was $59.95. The maximum authorized mintage was half-million coins for both proof and uncirculated coins combined in the four different options.
U.S. Mint Prepares to Offer 2001 Buffalo Commemorative Coins
The U.S. Mint had already anticipated a large demand for the new buffalo coins. As a result, the ordering dates were rescheduled from May 4 to June 7. This was implemented to give mail-order customers enough time to place their orders.
The Coin and Currency Set, which included an uncirculated American Buffalo Silver Dollar bearing a D mintmark was extremely popular. The set also included an 1899 $5 Silver Certificate replica produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The set also contained a 1987 Great American Series Red Cloud of the Oglala Sioux 10-cent stamp. Finally, the set also contained a second stamp from 2001 illustrating a bison with a sunset in the background. Both of these stamps had similar obverse and reverse designs to those of the 2001 Buffalo Commemorative Dollars.
Incomprehensibly, during the first five days of sales, no ordering limits were imposed. However, once the Internet sales begun on June 11, a limit of 20 orders per option was finally in effect. If a customer was to order every single one of the four different options it would total five separate coins combined. This meant a 20-order limit would equal 100 individual coins. Customers who had originally ordered and were charged for over 20 sets would only be given the maximum allotted 20 sets. This was the new rule, regardless of how many sets had been confirmed and charged for. Customers who ordered and were charged for more than 20 sets would later receive a reimbursement for anything over the 20 sets they were initially charged for.
2001 Buffalo Commemorative Dollars Sell Out
On June 21, 2001, the U.S. Mint announced a sellout of the 2001 Buffalo Commemorative coins. All half-million coins offered in the four different coin options were completely sold out. The final mintage for the uncirculated coins produced at Denver was 227,131. The total mintage for the proof coins was 272,869 coins. According to the U.S. Mint, this was the fastest sellout for any modern program it had offered at the time.
The success, demand and excitement for the Buffalo Commemorative coins did not stop there. In 2006, the U.S. Mint orchestrated another very popular buffalo coin program. The new Gold Buffaloes would also be an instant success. Today, there is no doubt that the buffalo and Indian chief head designs are very popular and famous. When the 2001-D Buffalo Commemorative Dollars were first released they were also an instant success, and the odds are, they will continue to very popular for many years to come.