With a mintage of 100,000 pieces, the 1893-S Morgan dollar has long
been noted as the key regular issue date for the series and a tempting
target for those wishing to make a dishonest buck.
While notations of the obverse markers and two differing Mint mark
positions have been included in authentication guides for a
considerable time, little was said of the date in the standard VAM
reference until this past year. The 2011 edition of New VAM
Varieties of Morgan & Peace Dollars by Leroy Van Allen
includes more detail about the obverse and listed both reverse dies separately.
A single obverse die was used for the entire legitimate
production. It can be identified by its date position, with the left
edge of the base of the 1 over the right edge of the third dentil from
the point of the neck.
Other attributes of the date on a genuine piece include a slight
upward slant for the date that gives the effect of the 3 appearing to
be higher than the other digits. The correct date position is not a
guaranty of authenticity, but a bad match is a clear indicator of
trouble. Most pieces with added Mint marks will fail a comparison of
Other die markers further identify the obverse. Two particularly
useful ones are found inside the letters R and T of LIBERTY. In the
lower left corner of the R, a pair of die gouges often referred to as
the “rabbit ears” should be visible on all but the most worn examples.
A diagonal line through the top center of the T is usually plainly
visible, but this feature can be weak on late die state examples.
The recently listed VAM-2 variety features a reverse with the Mint
mark tilted to the right. This marriage is the earlier of the two, so
the obverse markers should be bold; particularly the aforementioned
line in the T. The VAM-1 coin is now characterized by the reverse with
its Mint mark well centered under the bow knot, vertically upright and
The distribution between the two marriages appears to be fairly
even and no premium is warranted for one over the other.
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.