The “Meteor Shower” or VAM-31 variety of 1921 Morgan dollar may be
instantly identified by a series of die gouges in the area around the
point of Liberty’s bust. The resemblance to an eruption of shooting
stars is unmistakable.
It was first reported in September 1999 and subsequently listed in
New VAM Varieties of Morgan Dollars by Leroy Van Allen. While
this variety is well known to specialists, the exact cause of the die
gouges is unknown. They are all short yet relatively bold and vary
only slightly in orientation. It appears the event that caused the
“meteor shower” occurred during the die’s preparation, before its
initial use. An example of this exact marriage without the distinctive
gouges has never been located.
All examples of the obverse of VAM-3I have been mated with the same
reverse die. It is identified by a long scratch that passes through
the E of AMERICA. Additionally, around the eagle’s right (viewer’s
left) leg, a pattern of hand-engraved swirling die scratches that
looks like random scribbling appears.
Hundreds of other 1921 Morgan reverse dies employed at the three
Mints have similar scribble markings. They are separately cataloged in
the 1921 Scribbles Morgan Dollar Attribution Guide by Van Allen
and Crae Morton.
The 1921 reverse hubs were of a lower relief than those of earlier
years. The working dies were more susceptible to voids in the design
when they were polished before use. The hand engraving was an
expedient repair, and many examples have somewhat similar patterns —
almost like a signature.
Close examination reveals subtle differences, however, and
individual reverse working dies can be identified by their “scribble
scratches.” The scribbling on the VAM-3I 1921 Morgan dollar reverse is
most likely the characteristic that may answer the question about
where in the production run that the “meteor shower” actually occurred.