Jaime Hernandez: Despite the large mintage of half a million 2001 Buffalo Dollars being produced, the U.S. Mint still managed to sell out every single coin within two weeks.
On June 7th, the U.S. Mint made the coins available to the public for the first time ever. Immediately, the U.S. Mint was flooded with phone calls. Collectors who were unable to get through the phone lines, would instead end up purchasing the coins in the aftermarket at a very high premium. On the same day in which the coins were released, customers with confirmed orders were already selling the coin and currency sets online, for as much as $200 each, and sometimes even more. These same sets could still be purchased from the U.S. Mint for $54.95 each!
While producing the 2001-D Buffalo Dollars, the U.S. Mint increased the tonnage pressure used to strike the coins. Unremarkably, the U.S. Mint also struck mint state coins three times each! Both these procedures would be very 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 under 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.
The delicate and alluring buffalo 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 1900’s. This same obverse design was previously used on buffalo nickels from 1913 to 1938. The composite of the three chiefs in the design were from Chief Iron Tail, Chief Big Tree and Chief Two Moons. These three chiefs were performers 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 are elegantly arched above the buffalo on the reverse of 2001-D Buffalo Dollars. Originally, the motto was non existent 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 design originated from Black Diamond, a 1,550 pound bison located in New York’s Central Park Zoo in the early 1900’s. 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.
The 2001 Buffalo Dollar coins today, exist thanks to Ben Nighthorse Campbell from Colorado. Campbell was one of forty-four 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.
Persistence pays 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.
On October 27, 2000 President Clinton at the time 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 4th 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” mint mark. Proof coins were also struck with the same design but with a "P" mint mark, as they were struck at the Philadelphia Mint.
On June 7th and up until July 25, 2001, the U.S. Mint began taking advanced orders for four different coin options of the 2001 Buffalo Dollars.
The pre issue price for the Single Uncirculated coin which contained one mint state 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 as the regular issue price.
Pre issue prices for the Two-Coin Set containing a Proof and Uncirculated coin was $59.95 and $64.95 as the regular issue price.
Finally, for the Coin and Currency Set the pre issue price was $54.95 and $59.95 as the regular issue price. The maximum authorized mintage was half a million coins for both proof and uncirculated coins combined in the four different options.
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 4th to June 7. This was implemented in order to provide mail order customers enough time to place their orders. The original tentative ordering date was scheduled to coincide with the first day of production, which had taken place on May 4th.
The Coin and Currency Set was an extremely popular set, which was comprised with an uncirculated American Buffalo Silver Dollar bearing a D mint mark. 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 back ground. Both these stamps had similar obverse and reverse designs to that of the 2001 Buffalo Commemorative Dollars.
On June 21, 2001 the U.S. Mint announced a sell out of the 2001 Buffalo Commemorative coins. All half a million coins being 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 a total of 272,869 coins.
Subsequently, in September the mint canceled 2,800 orders which it had already confirmed and charged customers for. This amount was from the original 133,000 total orders it had taken in. According to the U.S. Mint, this was the fastest sellout for any modern program it had offered at the time and the rapid sales overwhelmed their systems. As a result, they mistakenly took in too many orders after the actual sellout.
Incomprehensibly, during the first five days of sales no ordering limits had been imposed. However, once the internet sales had begun on June 11 a limit of twenty orders per option was finally in effect. If a customer was to order every single one of the four different options it would total to five separate coins combined. This meant a twenty order limit would equal to one hundred individual coins. Customers who had originally ordered and were charged for over twenty sets would only be given the maximum allotted twenty 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 twenty sets which they were initially charged for.
The success, demand and excitement for the Buffalo Commemorative coins did not stop there. In 2006, the U.S. Mint orchestrated another very popular coin buffalo program. These new gold buffaloes would also be an instant success. Today, there is no doubt that the buffalo and Indian head chief design are a very popular and famous design. When the 2001-D Buffalo Commemorative Dollars were first released they were also an instant success, and the odds are, that they will continue to very popular for many years to come.