Look at Liberty's eye to detect subtle differences between VAM-11 and VAM-12 Morgan silver dollars

About VAMs column from the June 23, 2014, issue of Coin World
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 06/12/14
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In 1900, a new reverse hub (designated C4) was created for the Morgan dollar. It was very similar to the hub in service from mid-1878 (C3), but it has some subtle differences.

The Mint had a significant stockpile of reverse working dies with the older design, and in an act of conservation, they rehubbed many with the new design rather than scrapping them. These rehubbed dies are by definition examples of Class III or design hub doubling. Most of the resulting doubling is barely noticeable, but a few varieties are quite dramatic.

One of the strongest can be found among 1900 dollars. The boldly doubled reverse was discovered by Hoyt Warren in 1974 and listed in the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis.

Their VAM-11 description notes doubling through most of the eagle’s left wing, the lower part of the right wing, the arrow feathers and shafts, and the inscription IN GOD WE TRUST. The two olives that are diagnostic of the dual hubbing with the C4 and C3 designs as described in the Van Allen-Mallis text are also mentioned. The obverse is listed as normal.

The Top 100 Morgan Dollar Varieties: The VAM Keys by Michael Fey and Jeff Oxman revolutionized VAM collecting in the late 1990s by focusing attention of some of the most dramatic varieties. The VAM-11 marriage was part of their original set. In 1997, John Baumgart reported two different obverses were paired with the VAM-11 reverse, and one was a minor doubled die.

This DDO/DDR combination was listed as VAM-24 and is now also part of the Top 100 set. It features doubling on the obverse stars, but these are poorly struck on most examples. The front of Liberty’s eye is also slightly doubled, and this is a reliable diagnostic.

An attribution of the “normal” obverse found with the VAM-11 variety can be made by noting a vertical die scratch that runs parallel to the front of Liberty’s eye. Since the diagnostics for the two obverses are in the same area, they should be fairly easy to remember.

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