As the author of the booklet Long Nock: A Guide to the 1878-S B1
Reverse Varieties, it is natural that the dollars of this group are of
particular interest to me.
I recently examined two VAM-58 1878-S Morgan dollars. First
reported by Jeff Oxman in April 1995, the variety is now listed in the
fourth edition of the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan
& Peace Dollars by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis. It is one
of the nine marriages produced from the initial delivery of dies to
the San Francisco Mint in April 1878. They are most readily identified
by the long end or “nock” of the arrow shaft in the center of the
The VAM-58 variety of 1878-S Morgan dollar is identified by a bold
spike protruding from the front of Liberty’s eye. It is actually
localized tripling of the die, which is also evident above the eyelid,
in the letters of LIBERTY and inside her ear. A typical example has
experienced moderate to heavy circulation, masking some of the finer details.
A side-by-side comparison of well-preserved examples reveals the
marriage’s progression. At least three distinct stages of the obverse
die exist. Fairly early in their life, the dies clashed and were
repolished. Examples without clash marks are, naturally, the earlier stage.
A strong inverted V-shaped clash mark is found between the eyelid
and the aforementioned bold spike at the intermediate “post-clash” stage.
Later, the obverse developed a strong diagonal crack through the
date. This appears to be its terminal stage.
The reverse also is seen with or without clash marks, depending on
when it was struck. The clashed and repolished version is the usual
After the distinctive obverse was retired, this particular long
nock reverse was also employed for the VAM-56 mintage. Seeing how a
piece fits within a progression is much like playing with a jigsaw
puzzle. It’s gratifying to be able to see a little more of the picture
as it forms.
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.