US Coins

1889 dollar variety boasts interesting diagnostics

About VAMS column from Oct. 26, 2015, issue of Coin World:

While several numismatists are attempting to collect all 3,000 listed Morgan dollar varieties, most focus their efforts on a smaller subset. 

In 2009, the Official Guide to the Morgan Dollar Hit List 40 by Jeff Oxman was released. One of the pieces he included has an interesting blend of characteristics.

The VAM-5B 1889 Morgan dollar was discovered by John Coxe in November 2006 and was formally cataloged by Leroy Van Allen in the following year’s edition of New VAM Varieties of Morgan Dollars.

Several marriages are found in the 1889 VAM-5 group. Most are mundane even to the eye of a variety enthusiast. They share the defining feature of a date position that is “further right than normal.”

The reverse of the far more interesting VAM-5A and -5B coins is both pitted and gouged. While the listing suggests this is a stage, I believe both features are always present on this particular die.

A moderately strong patch of pitting appears around the D of DOLLAR that does not appear to vary in intensity in the way some other pitted die varieties progress.

Likewise, I’ve never seen this exact reverse without the gouges under the olive leaves. 

Partway through production, this marriage suffered a clashing strike. The event was strong enough to imprint a partial outline of the letter N from IN GOD WE TRUST into the field in front of Liberty’s neck.

The presence of this clash mark defines the VAM-5B 1889 Morgan dollar and provides a clear dividing line between the VAM-5A and -5B stages.

Without the clash, there is little on the obverse to aid in identification except for one good marker. The coin exhibits a curved raised line on the lower bottom of Liberty’s cap that is present on all stages and will hold up to at least a moderate degree of circulation.

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