One of the rarest Morgan silver dollar varieties is the 1901
Doubled Die Reverse, also known as the VAM-3 Shifted Eagle.
VAM is an acronym for Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis,
numismatic authors who wrote the Comprehensive Catalog and
Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars.
The VAM book describes this variety as “the strongest doubled
reverse die of the Morgan series.”
Home hobbyists love the Shifted Eagle variety because you can
still find it unattributed in online auctions, antique malls and even
The variety occurred because of a misalignment of the hub and die
so that the eagle was shifted slightly, doubling the lower eagle
wings, tail feathers, arrow shafts and arrowheads (along with other devices).
I especially like the doubling of the tail feathers because they
are as pronounced as those found on strong varieties of the 1878
Morgan, 7 Over 8 Tail Feathers dollar.
Others may disagree, but I think the 1901 Morgan, Shifted Eagle
dollar is as alluring as the 1955 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent.
Like the 1955 Lincoln, DDO cent, the Shifted Eagle’s doubling is
so strong that it can easily be seen without magnification. Just as
the 1955 DDO is needed to complete a set of Lincoln cents, the 1901
variety is a must-have to complete a Morgan set.
Unlike the 1955 cent, however, the 1901 Morgan dollar is rare in
Mint State. That gives it added appeal, assuming you can find one.
The value of a 1955 DDO cent in Extremely Fine condition is about
$2,200, about the same as recent auction prices for the Shifted Eagle.
Values of the Morgan variety can rise dramatically to $10,000-plus
in low Mint State.
Here’s the thing, though: How likely would you be able to win a
properly cataloged 1955 Lincoln, DDO cent with a modest bid in an
auction? Not likely.
But with the Shifted Eagle, you can do just that.
In an Aug. 17, 2012, Leonard Auction I won, with a bid of $240, a
Shifted Eagle dollar described as “1901 $1 VAM-3 Very Fine-30.”
Professional Coin Grading Service graded it EF-40, valued at $1,600.
It’s tucked away safely in my bank box where I visit it regularly.
I also placed it in my PCGS Set Registry where I can view it
This type of find is not based on luck. It’s based on numismatic
knowledge that you can gain at home reading Coin World.
It also requires immersing yourself in the hobby to the extent
that you know a good bargain when you see one, literally.
Michael Bugeja, a coin collector since childhood, is a professor
at Iowa State University and also a member of the Citizens Coinage
Advisory Committee. He is a nationally known author, journalist and educator.