By 1997, events were already in motion that would completely overhaul the Washington quarter series. By December 1, 1997, President Bill Clinton had signed the 50 States Commemorative Coin Program Act, making 1997 the penultimate year of the Heraldic Eagle Washington quarter. This came on the back of a very important couple of years at the Denver Mint. Not only had the mint become profitable enough to managed begin operating on its own operating revenues, but it had also started a massive five-year, $100 million plan to modernize its equipment. With these funds, the Denver facility purchased three annealing furnaces and a high-speed press capable of producing 700 planchets per minute.
Denver was even recognized for the “high caliber” of its staff (Mint Annual Report, 7). Under the leadership of new superintendent Raymond J. DeBroekert, Denver was the first mint field office to win a Hammer Award. Presented by Vice President Al Gore, the award was given to “teams of federal employees who have made significant contributions in support of reinventing government principles” (US GOV). In 1997, Denver was also awarded the first Mint Director’s Equal Employment Opportunity trophy.
When the award-winning staff and new machinery were combined, there was a dramatic increase in the quality and rate of production at the Denver facility.
That being said, Denver only struck 599,680,000 Washington quarters in 1997. This was a 45.64% decline from 1995 and a 33.9% decline from 1996. However, even with such a comparatively small mintage and an estimated survival rate of 50%, this date and type is quite common in all but the highest grades. Like many modern circulating coins, the graded population does not accurately reflect the available population. In fact, NGC has certified a total of only 197 coins and PCGS has graded just 334, with the two most common grades being MS 66 at 37.1% of the graded population and MS 67 at 36%. Despite there only being 20 certified and graded pieces at MS 68, there are undoubtedly more.
The 1997-D in Today’s Market
At the time of publication, the auction record for this type–$977.50 USD–was set in a January 2004 Heritage Auctions sale. The coin is a “needle sharp” example with no contact marks, graded as MS 68 by PCGS. Despite this high hammer price, MS 68s have more recently sold for roughly $400.
Each step down in grade also corresponds to a dramatic decrease in price. Recently, MS 67s have sold for as high as $100 and as low as $27. Most examples average out at roughly $40 to $60. MS 66s, however, sell for between $5 and $30, with most averaging around $14. The lower range of this price also holds true for MS 65s, which sell for between $5 and $20.
Low Mint State examples (MS 60 – MS 62) sell for $2 to $5, and as such are not worth submitting for grading. Correspondingly, AU examples are worth a 2-3x premium over face value. In grades lower than AU, the 1997-D is worth face value.
Designed by American sculptor John Flanagan, the obverse of the 1997-D Washington quarter is based on a bust of the Founding Father created by the neoclassical French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon in 1785. Flanagan’s design differs from the original bust in several ways, such as a slightly different head shape and several curls of hair that are not on the bust; for comparison, Houdon’s bust can be viewed at the late president’s Virginia estate, Mount Vernon. Under the left-facing effigy’s chin is the national motto IN GOD WE TRUST. The legend LIBERTY runs along the top of the coin’s field and the date 1997 below. In small letters, Flanagan’s initials “JF” can be found above the “7” in 1997 at the base of the bust and the “D” mintmark is to the right of Washington’s hair tie.
Unlike the obverse, there were no restrictions placed on the candidate sculptors when designing the Washington quarter reverse. Flanagan’s reverse is dominated by a heraldic eagle with outstretched wings and a left-facing head. The eagle is perched on a neat bundle of arrows with two intertwined olive branches below. Above the eagle can be read the two main inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and E PLURIBUS UNUM. Finally, at six o’clock on the design is the denomination written out as QUARTER DOLLAR.
The edge of the 1997-D Washington quarter is reeded.
Born in New Jersey in 1865, John Flanagan lived in New York for most of his life. He began working with Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1884 at the age of 20 and quickly became a well-known sculptor and medallic artist in his own right. Saint-Gaudens made introductions for Flanagan at the United States Mint. While the Washington quarter was his sole numismatic design, Flanagan designed numerous famous medals and sculptures, including the official medal of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the official Verdun medal gifted to France by the United States Government, and the 1924 bust of Saint-Gaudens. Flanagan was also a member of the American Numismatic Society (ANS).
|Year Of Issue:||1997|
|Mint Mark:||D (Denver)|
|Alloy:||75% Copper, 25% Nickel over a pure copper center|
|OBV Designer||John Flanagan|
|REV Designer||John Flanagan|
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1997 US Mint Annual Report – https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/611379