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The Buffalo Nickel Came Back In Silver!

One of America's most beloved and widely collected coins, the Buffalo nickel, was reintroduced as a special one-dollar, 90-percent pure silver commemorative version on June 7, 2001, according to United States Mint Director Jay W. Johnson.

Speaking at a May 4 ceremony held at the Denver Mint, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Elizabeth Duggal, National Campaign Director for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) joined Mint Director Johnson in announcing the commemoration in silver of the classic James Earle Fraser engraved Buffalo nickel.

The Denver Mint produced the first American Buffalo Commemorative Coin struck from 26.73 grams of 90-percent pure silver. While not to be circulated, the one-dollar coin will be legal tender with uncirculated coins being minted in Denver and proof coins minted in Philadelphia.

The celebrated Buffalo nickel, originally designed by James Earle Fraser, was minted from 1913 through 1938. Three different American Indians, Chief Iron Tail, Chief Big Tree and Chief Two Moons, who were performers in Wild West shows in New York City, modeled for Fraser. The buffalo model for the coin came from New York’s Central Park Zoo.

"James Earle Fraser’s classic designs are recognized as icons of the original Americans," said Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill, speaking from Washington, D.C. "How fitting it is that these enduring images contribute to the creation of an institution to honor and preserve this country’s precious Native American culture."

The obverse (front) of the American Buffalo Commemorative Coin features a striking American Indian profile and the reverse features an American buffalo.

Sen. Campbell, one of 44 Chiefs of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, and Rep. Lucas sponsored the American Buffalo Coin Commemorative Coin Act of 2000, which authorized the American Buffalo Commemorative Coin. The Citizens Commemorative Coin Advisory Committee also endorsed the legislation.

"The Buffalo was always a great benefit and blessing to American Indians in the past," said Rick West, Director of the National Museum of the American Indian. "And just as the buffalo made our lives whole in the 19th century, the sales of the American Buffalo Commemorative Coin in the 21st century will benefit the museum that serves to commemorate and celebrate the lives of American Indians."

Examples of commemorative coins include the Leif Ericson Millennium Coins, Library of Congress Coins and the Yellowstone National Park Silver Dollar.