The 1997 Botanic Garden commemorative silver dollar was part of a very interesting program. Anyone who actually purchased all the options from the program probably feels pretty good about what otherwise might be an obscure commemorative coinage issue.
The Botanic Garden may seem like an unusual theme choice for a commemorative, but the Botanic Gardens have always been a Washington, D.C., tourist favorite. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, Washington, D.C., institutions get more than their share of commemoratives. This might have something to do with the fact that the members of Congress who authorize commemorative programs live and work most of the year in the Washington, D.C., area.
That said, the U.S. Botanic Garden is not simply some rose exhibition. It is the oldest continually operating botanic garden in the United States, dating all the way back to 1820 when it was authorized by President James Monroe. The coin’s obverse was designed by Edgar Steever, and the reverse was by William C. Cousins.
It must be remembered that 1997 was a very tough year for commemoratives. The market was at a low point after being flooded with issues in 1995 and 1996. The biggest problem was the 32 Atlanta Olympic Games issues. This large number of issues had turned collectors against the modern commemorative program as it had operated to that point in time. Both orders and interest dropped.
What was needed were fewer issues, but already in the pipeline for 1997 were coins for the Botanic Garden, a gold $5 for Franklin D. Roosevelt, a silver dollar and $5 for Jackie Robinson, and a National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial dollar. Four different issues in one year with two involving $5 gold coins is too many, and coming with a bad market only makes a bad situation worse. It was the Botanic Garden dollar that was more popular than the others.
The dollar was offered at $33 for a proof and $30 for a BU in the pre-issue discount period. Regular prices were $37 for the proof and $32 for the BU. There was also a Prestige set that sold for $44 in the pre-issue period and $48 in the regular period, and that set is currently up to $110.
Sales of the individual dollars were 58,505 business strikes and 189,671 proofs. In 1997 those were good sales, but over the span of modern commemoratives the totals are modest. The proof retails today at $42 while, the BU is $45.
The real prize in the Botanic Garden offering was 25,000 coinage and currency sets that had a BU Botanic Garden dollar packed with a $1 Federal Reserve Note and a 1997 matte-finish Jefferson nickel. At $36 in the pre-issue discount period, it was a set that could not miss. All 25,000 sold quickly and today the set is priced at $190.
This dollar and the sets that include it are worth a look from collectors.