One of the biggest surprises last year within the field of Morgan
dollar variety research was the discovery of a second “Spitting Eagle”
The most common 1891-CC Morgan dollar die pairing has an oval-shaped
die gouge strategically placed just under the eagle’s open mouth. It
was first reported for other features in the 1964 List of Die
Varieties of Morgan Head Silver Dollars by A. George Mallis. Along
with co-author Leroy Van Allen, he later listed it as VAM-3 in the
Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars.
Further attention followed in The Top 100 Morgan Dollar Varieties: The
VAM Keys by Michael Fey and Jeff Oxman.
The VAM-3 Morgan dollar also displays a repunched Mint mark (the
feature Mallis first took note of) and a fairly nondescript obverse.
The variety is one of the few components of the Top 100 that does not
command a premium over “normal” examples for its date.
In recent years, a small but growing group of collectors has tried
to assemble sets in the lowest grade possible, commonly referred to as
a “lowball” collection. With this in mind, a specialist sent a group
of well-worn dollars to John Baumgart of Variety Slabbing Service for
attribution. Baumgart recognized the distinctive reverse, but
questioned if two of the coins submitted had the same obverse as
VAM-3. Several days of discussion and research by a small group of VAM
enthusiasts followed, and it was confirmed there was a previously
In September 2013, Van Allen listed the find as VAM-7. The new Top
100 variety has its date set further right by almost a full dentil and
the coin has a strong die gouge in the top of the E of LIBERTY. It is
considerably harder to find than its VAM-3 counterpart.
The initial research strongly suggests the VAM-7 coin is rare, and
only a small handful of additional examples have been found in the
months since its discovery. However, a degree of caution should be
exercised in any estimate of relative scarcity until a more complete
picture emerges with time.