US Coins

Matte Madness in 1997

In a photograph published in the Oct. 20, 1997, issue of Coin World, then Publisher Ann Marie Aldrich is shown engulfed by the more than 82,000 post card entries in Coin World’s Botanic Giveaway of three 1997 Botanic Garden Coinage and Currency sets that were later shipped to lucky winners.

Coin World photo.

While commemorative coin sales by the United States Mint for 1997 coin programs generally underperformed, one set soared — the 1997 Coinage and Currency set, which contained a Matte Finish 1997-P Jefferson 5-cent coin.

Along with the special 5-cent coin, the set included an Uncirculated 1997 Botanic Garden silver dollar and a Crisp Uncirculated $1 Federal Reserve note. The set was priced at $36 and sold out less than a week after being offered at the pre-issue price on Feb. 21, 1997. Ordering limits of five sets per household were imposed

The 80,000 Prestige Proof sets with the Botanic Garden dollar — the final Prestige Proof set — sold out several weeks later.

In the months following the sellout, the price for the Coin and Currency set on the secondary market would soar as high as $500, before settling at the $250 level at the end of the year. In a Sept. 15, 1997, Coin World article, dealer Ken Pines stated, “The Botanic set is the single hottest item the Mint has ever issued. It’s been incredibly hot and strong.”

The demand for the sets was very real. Coin World offered a giveaway where readers were invited to send in post cards for a chance to win one of three sets, and the response was overwhelming, with more than 82,000 entries received in Sidney, Ohio. The three winners had submitted one, 60 and 100 post cards each.

Several weeks after the sets were released to collectors on June 6, 1997, people began to report replacement star notes bearing a New York Federal Reserve District seal, which differed from the one that was intended for the set. The sets were supposed to contain a Series 1995 $1 Federal Reserve note bearing the Richmond Federal Reserve District seal, honoring Jefferson’s Virginia roots. While interesting, little additional value has attached to these sets with star notes.

At the time of their issue, the Mint made clear that its term “Matte Finish” was not to be confused with the Matte Proof coins used on some U.S. coins in the early 20th century. The modern Matte Finish is the product of planchet and die preparation, rather than a finish created on coins after striking.

The 1997-P 5-cent coins were well-produced, and most receive Specimen or Special Mint Set grades of 69. Individual slabbed Specimen 69 examples routinely sell on online auction venues such as eBay for around $200. The complete sets with original Mint packaging can be found on eBay for around $170.

While sales for the Botanic Gardens sets were hot, the Uncirculated 1997-W Jackie Robinson gold $5 half eagle went unnoticed, creating a legendary modern rarity that will be the focus of next month’s column.

Steven Roach is associate editor of Coin World. Email him at

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