The characteristics of a VAM-3 variety help collectors to identify genuine 1894 dollars

About VAMS column from the Dec. 22, 2014, issue of Coin World
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 12/05/14
Text Size

One of the most effective aids in counterfeit detection is a solid knowledge of what features should be present on genuine examples. The observational skills of the variety collector and the authenticator often overlap. This is certainly true for Morgan dollars.

One of the more desirable dates in the set is the 1894 Morgan dollar. Only 110,000 pieces were produced for circulation, all from a single die marriage. Some of its characteristics have been known for decades. A trait from a genuine example is pictured and described in Counterfeit Detection, a 1983 compilation of articles written by ANACS staff for The Numismatist.

In May 2004, a minor doubled die reverse was noted. While not truly a new discovery, it was formally listed as VAM-3 in New VAM Varieties of Morgan Dollars by Leroy Van Allen (VAM-1 and -2 are Proof strikes). In addition to the slight doubling along the tops of the letters of IN GOD WE TRUST, the reverse may be positively identified by a short gouge above the inner toe of the eagle’s left (viewer’s right) toe. In circulated examples, this spot is prone to being filled with dirt and grime, but is durable because of its protected location.

The obverse die may be identified by careful inspection of the date’s position. The left edge of the base of the 1 is near the left edge of the third dentil from the point of the neck. The die may be further identified by a patch of three die scratches off to the right of Morgan’s initial. If a purported example does not exactly match these features, it’s not a circulation strike 1894 Morgan dollar.

Before condemning a piece as a forgery, a comparison to Proof examples should be made. Two of the three Proof dies have date positions that are similar, but not an exact match to the VAM-3. A comparison can be made by visiting the online archives of one of several major auction houses.

More from CoinWorld.com:

Federal judge sentences Liberty Dollar creator Dec. 2 to probation for 2011 conviction

U.S. Mint announces Dec. 5 maximum mintage of 75,000 for gold half dollar

Collectors love finding coins bearing the 'CC' Mint mark from the Carson City Mint

Government, Langbord family present oral arguments as Philadelphia Court of Appeals hears 1933 $20 case

Collectors need to spot the difference between genuine and fake coin toning

Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

You are signed in as:null

Please sign in or join to share your thoughts on this story

No comments yet