THE FIRST YEAR OF ISSUE COIN!! While this coin actually has the highest mintage of any proof platinum $100 in the series (just under 21,000), let's put that in perspective. The first year of issue proof $50 Gold eagle (1986) has a mintage of roughly 446,000 and the first year of issue proof Silver $1 eagle (1986) has a mintage of about 1,446,000! Notwithstanding the "high" mintage, this coin has the HIGHEST "difficulty factor" (you heard the term here first) of achieving a PCGS-PR70DCAM grade than ANY $100 coin in the entire series.
So, what do I mean by the "difficulty factor" (a variable I personally use to measure the scarcity of a modern coin such as this in the "PR70DCAM" grade)? I take a ratio of the total population of "70's against the total population of 69's and 70's. At the time of this writing, there were 1,791 PR69DCAM and 46 PR70DCAM 1997-W $100 coins graded by PCGS. So, PCGS has graded a total of 46 "PR70's" out of 1,837 total PR69/PR70 coins. This translates to a difficulty factor of 39.93 (of course, the higher the number, the more difficult the coin is to obtain in the PR70DCAM grade). Collectors often ask me why a coin such as the 1999-W $100 PR70DCAM with a PCGS population of only -39- PR70DCAM coins (at the time of this writing) generally sells for less than the 1997-W $100 with a higher "PR70DCAM" population of -46- coins and a higher mintage than the 1999-W $100 (and the Price Guide also (correctly in my opinion) has the 1997-W $100 at a much higher price than the 1999-W $100). I believe the "difficulty factor" aids one in understanding why this has been the case. The difficulty factor on the 1999-W $100 is 25.21 at this time. Again, 39.93 on the 1997-W vs. 25.21 on the 1999-W. Of course, the difficulty factor is an ever-changing calculation - collectors should keep a close eye on the PCGS population report to track its movement and direction.
Additionally, locating the "most perfect" of the "perfect" specimens of this date is quite a pursuit. And, by "most perfect" of the "perfect", I mean those coins with meticulous surfaces even free from planchet imperfections of a pre-striking nature that, in some cases, may not technically affect the "70" grade. It is not uncommon for proof platinum planchets (and especially those from the earlier years) to have pre-striking issues, such as minor pitting, very tiny pinpricks, minor metal flaking, etc. In some cases, these coins are graded PR70DCAM as it is determined that these pre-striking issues with the platinum planchet do not technically affect the grade of the post-struck coin. Extreme premium quality examples of this coin are few and far apart. Collectors should carefully study these coins to fully grasp this issue.
About a quarter of the entire mintage of all of the 1997-W $100 Plats are found in a neat product the U.S. Mint sold back in 1997 called the "Impressions of Liberty" set, which contained a 1997 proof silver, gold and platinum eagle. I will discuss this cool set in detail in my commentary on the 1997 $50 proof gold eagle in the future. Stay tuned.