US Coins

1879-S Morgan dollar variety interesting acquisition

About VAMs column from Oct. 24, 2016, weekly issue of Coin World:

In September 1981, Leroy Van Allen uncovered an 1879-S Morgan dollar with a bold series of parallel gouges coming out of the leading edge of Liberty’s lower curls. He and co-author A. George Mallis designated the find as VAM-1B when they included it in the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars. While examples would garner some interest when found, the variety languished in relative obscurity for decades.

That changed a few months ago when variety enthusiast Chris Simpson encountered a later stage of the marriage with an unusual appearance. The entire obverse field had been coarsely polished in a vertical orientation. 

To the untrained eye, the stage could easily be dismissed as harshly abrasive cleaning. Van Allen examined Simpson’s coin in July 2016 and cataloged it as the new VAM-1B2. In addition to the odd looking fields, Van Allen also noted characteristics not described when the marriage was first listed. Several other gouges in Liberty’s lower hair were found, and they appear to be interconnected.

The lower hair was also overpolished on the later stage, leaving gaps not present on the earlier portion of this die’s production. Additionally, the reverse had several re-engraved leaves in the left wreath bough.

“Examination of this die variety after the many years since its listing was a real eye-opener to say the least and deserved a greatly expanded description!” Van Allen said.

While it’s not entirely clear what motivated the heavy polishing on the newly discovered stage, it has certainly prompted greater interest from the VAM community. I recently had the chance to meet Chris Simpson at a coin show and asked him about his find as well as Van Allen’s reaction. He replied “It was a good surprise.”


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