Out of a reported mintage of 86 Proof 1897 Double Eagles, experts speculate that only 35 to 40 have survived until today. Assuming all of the 86 Proofs were actually sold to collectors (a questionable assumption), it is doubtful that many were destroyed AFTER their release. We know of instances where Proof gold coins ended up in circulation, but this only occurs to a minor degree, and almost never with an 1897 Proof $20. Thus, either numerous Proof 1897 Double Eagles remain hidden, or the coins we have today are all we are going to see.
The production quality of Proof 1897 Doubles Eagles is excellent. Virtually all examples have some degree of Cameo contrast and a small number have Deep Cameo contrast. Demand for the best examples is intense, and at least one example (the Eliasberg Proof) has sold for over $100,000.
David Akers (1975/88)
The 1897 is comparable in overall rarity to the 1894 and 1896. As such, it ranks as one of the commoner dates of the series although it is a step rarer than such ultra-common issues as the 1895, 1898-S, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1904, 1904-S and 1907. Average uncirculated examples are common and choice mint state pieces are not difficult to find. Gems are very scarce but obtainable.