Overdates, even very subtle ones, are avidly collected in many
series. Morgan dollars are no exception.
In 1880, antedated dies were modified and pressed into service at
all four active Mints. On several of these dies, the traces of the
underlying digits 7 and 9 are dramatic and obvious. Studying the
stronger overdates helped unmask the weaker ones.
In February 2005, author Jeff Oxman found a previously unreported
marriage of an 1880-O Morgan dollar with a weak overdate obverse he
had featured in his work, SSDC Official Guide to the Hot 50 Morgan
Dollar Varieties. It was described and plated in the annual
update New VAM Varieties of Morgan & Peace Dollars by Leroy Van
Allen as VAM-55. This specific marriage can be fairly difficult to
Both the obverse and reverse dies were used in three other
marriages, so careful study of both sides takes on added importance.
The variety is rare in Mint State and uncommon in any grade. About
Uncirculated 58 examples have an estimated retail value of $400, if available.
A “checkmark” — the lower left curve of the flag of a 7 — is found
on the upper left surface of the second 8. At a glance, this may not
be recognizable as an overdate, but the “checkmark” is also found on
far stronger varieties.
This obverse die also clashed and cracked in an earlier use, so
these stage markers are always present in this marriage.
The wavy die crack from the truncation of the bust to the top of
the 1 is often the “pick up point” that makes a specialist take a much
Die scratches in protected areas can be used to confirm an
attribution of this specific die even when the overdate has been
obscured by wear from extensive circulation.
The reverse is defined by the small O Mint mark and a pair of die
scratches in the wreath just to the left of the bow.
It is one of the earlier uses of this workhorse of a reverse die,
so clash marks are not evident.
John Roberts is director of attribution services for ANACS. He is
a longtime collector of Morgan dollar varieties and is considered an
expert in attributing Morgan varieties.