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1997-P Proof American Silver Eagle : A Collector’s Guide

1997-P American Silver Eagle Proof. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1997-P American Silver Eagle Proof. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

In 1997, the United States Mint added the American Platinum Eagle to its bullion coin program. The new product was authorized by Congress in 1996 and added a third precious metal to the portfolio in addition to gold and silver.

For the American Silver Eagle Program, the Mint produced its standard fare: a bullion coin for investors and a Proof version for collectors. With an average spot price of $4.90 per ounce of silver, the United States Mint charged collectors $23 for the opportunity to own one Proof coin.

Proof examples were struck to an exacting standard using specially prepared dies and planchets. The resulting coins exhibit mirrored fields and thickly frosted devices. They are carefully handled so that incidental marks and scratches are not imparted onto the coins’ surfaces during production or packaging, and so the most commonly encountered certified grades for the Proof 1997-P American Silver Eagle are Proof 69 and Proof 70. We discuss this later in the article.

Beyond the regular Proof issue was a 1997-P American Silver Eagle Proof coin included in a special set.

1997 Impressions of Liberty Proof Set. Image: CoinWeek.
1997 Impressions of Liberty Proof Set. Image: CoinWeek.

To commemorate the release of the new series, the U.S. Mint offered the 1997 American Eagle Impressions of Liberty three-coin Proof set containing one-ounce American Platinum and American Gold Eagles struck at the West Point Mint and a 1997-P American Silver Eagle. The individual coins in this set are indistinguishable from the regular issues, but the set came in a numbered wooden case with a Certificate of Authenticity signed by Mint Director Philip N. Diehl. The set was limited to 5,000 pieces and sold at an issue price of $1,499 ($2,959 in 2024-inflation adjusted dollars). Sets appear occasionally on sites like eBay, where sellers ask for prices between $4,000 and $5,000. Each of these coins can be purchased individually at a lower price and since there is nothing to differentiate the coins in this set from regular issues, the long-term value of this set may come from the scarcity of the wooden box and COA.

What Is the 1997-P American Silver Eagle Proof Worth?

As a raw coin, the 1997-P American Silver Eagle Proof sells on sites like eBay for about $70. This is a fair market value, reflected in the prices that local coin shops or large online coin dealers will charge. For an additional $10, collectors also have the option of purchasing an example graded Proof 69 Deep Cameo/Ultra Cameo by a leading grading service. Some sellers will charge a premium for coins with hand-signed labels. These can be fun to collect, but it’s a good idea to be skeptical of claims that these labels are rare or investment-quality. Furthermore, paying any premium for limited-edition labels is a bad idea as there is a thin secondary market for this type of product.

Proof 70 coins can sell for prices of $500 and up, but we’ve seen major firm auction data from 2023-2024 where prices are declining and many coins are changing hands at online auctions for prices in the $300 range. This highlights the spread between what the general public is willing to spend on mass-market venues versus the prices that more experienced collectors are likely to pay on industry-specific platforms, such as GreatCollections.

While NGC and PCGS have certified a significant number of pieces as “perfect” 70s, PCGS holds a slight edge in the number of coins graded 70. Interestingly, the ratios of 69s to 70s have come way down over the past 10 years for both services, with NGC grading 19.25 69s for every 70 through 2014 and PCGS grading 6.44 to 1 throughout the same period. Since then, the ratios have fallen to 2.78:1 for NGC and 1.88:1 for PCGS. The economics of the market are likely at play here; see our concept “terminal point“.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top PopulationPCGS PR70DCAM (3,156, 6/2024), NGC PF70UCAM (2,608, 6/2024), and CAC PR70DCAM (27, 6/2024).

  • NGC PF70UCAM #6790739-026: eBay, June 21, 2024 – $679. Thomas J. Uram signature label.
  • NGC PF70UCAM #4308515-005: eBay, June 11, 2024 – $725.
  • NGC PF70UCAM #8142837-003: eBay, June 10, 2024 – $674.99. Thomas J. Uram signature label.
  • NGC PF70UCAM #4563984-025: Stack’s Bowers, April 3, 2024, Lot 13538 – $504.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #39870944: Stack’s Bowers, March 13, 2024, Lot 92596 – $312. Milk spots along the periphery.

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Design

Obverse:

Artist Adolph A. Weinman’s Lady Liberty is depicted mid-stride. She is seen as a full-body figure, dressed in a flowing gown, and draped with a large billowing American flag. She holds laurel and oak branches in her left hand that symbolize the civil and military glories of America, respectively. As Liberty strides confidently towards the rising sun, she reaches out and presents a welcoming and open hand. So large is Lady Liberty that she is superimposed over the obverse legend LIBERTY ringing the obverse – in fact, she obscures half of the “BE” and almost the entire “R”. Above Liberty’s outstretched rear foot is the motto IN GOD WE TRUST, and below her is the date 1997.

The design bears a notable resemblance to sculptor Oscar Roty’s The Sower, a common image on French coins. Numismatist Roger Burdette posited in his book Renaissance of American Coinage (2007) that this was not a coincidence and while Adolph Weinman did not directly copy, he did derive significant inspiration from Roty’s work. Weinman’s Liberty Walking design quickly became one of America’s most iconic numismatic images and would be used with minor modifications on the American Silver Eagle bullion coin starting in 1986.

Reverse:

The Heraldic Eagle of United States Mint Chief Engraver John Mercanti is positioned at the center. Clutched in its beak is a ribbon bearing the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. Above its head is a constellation of 13 stars configured in an upside-down pyramid formation. The legend (top) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is wrapped around the design and the fineness and denomination (bottom) 1 OZ. FINE SILVER. ONE DOLLAR.

Edge:

The edge of the 1997-P American Silver Eagle Proof coin is reeded.

Coin Specifications

American Silver Eagle
Year of Issue: 1997
Mintage: 435,368
Alloy: 99.9% silver
Weight: 31.1 g
Diameter: 40.6 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Adolph A. Weinman
REV Designer: John M. Mercanti

 

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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