Saving time was most likely the greatest motivation behind the
creation of most overdates.
In the latter half of the 19th century, sinking a die to its full
depth took at least a week to accomplish because annealing was
required between each successive blow from the hub. The constraints of
time took on added importance for Morgan dollars as their production
levels were mandated under provisions of the Bland-Allison Act.
Many collectors consider the 1887/6 Morgan dollar a distinct date
and part of the basic set. It has long been included in A Guide
Book of United States Coins, the familiar “Red Book.” It was
first reported by Ted Clark in 1971 and was described in detail as
VAM-2 in the second edition of the Comprehensive Catalog and
Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars by Leroy Van Allen
and A. George Mallis. Michael Fey and Jeff Oxman included the overdate
for their collaborative effort, The Top 100 Morgan Dollar
Varieties: The VAM Keys.
While an attribution of the variety would seem a fairly
straightforward affair, some coins with marks from circulation can
confound even an experienced collector. In addition to careful
observation of the defining feature, noting secondary diagnostics will
ensure an accurate determination.
On the VAM-2 dollar, the curve of the bottom of a 6 is visible
protruding from either side of the base of the 7. A tiny spur that is
a remnant of the upper portion of the centerstroke of the 6 is found
on the center of the upper edge of the crossbar of the 7 on well
preserved examples. The date is positioned with the digit 1 beginning
over the left edge of the third dentil from the point of the neck. A
differing position is conclusive evidence a questionable piece is not
the desired variety. This fact is particularly useful when attempting
to attribute or cherrypick based on photographs.
With the piece in hand, simply look for a nearly horizontal die
scratch in front of the upper half of Liberty’s eye. This marker is
unique to this die and found on all stages.
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.