Strongly misaligned clashing that defies a simple explanation is
the defining characteristic of one of the most intriguing Morgan
dollar varieties that advanced collectors may encounter.
In January 2004, Mark Kimpton discovered a dollar with clashmarks
far from their typical locations. Leroy Van Allen subsequently
included it in New VAM Varieties of Morgan & Peace
Dollars as VAM-14A.
The description of the coin being from clashed dies belies the
complex nature of how this variety may have come to exist.
A clash occurs when a planchet fails to feed into the press and
the dies strike each other, literally coining a portion of the design
into the opposing die face.
Typically, a clash mark is closely aligned to the location of the
corresponding feature of a ‘normal’ coin. When a misaligned clash
occurs, the hammer die is offset from its desired stroke. For this
particular dollar, this displacement is a full 2 millimeters to the south.
During normal press operation, the lower die would be retracted
within the collar to form the coining chamber. It would then move to
its “up” position to eject the newly struck piece. If the lower die
was in its proper position during the clashing strike, the upper die
would have hit the collar plate instead.
The cause of three simultaneous malfunctions — failure to feed,
misalignment of the upper die, and improper cycling or jamming of the
lower die — remains a mystery.
Naturally, the clash marks on examples of the VAM-14A dollar are
unusual. No other Morgan dollar has letter transfer quite like it. The
top of the g from god protrudes from the underside of the truncation
of Liberty’s bust.
The additional clashed letters mentioned earlier are also present,
but these faded from the obverse die quickly and most examples only
have faint traces of them.
The reverse is also strongly clashed with the image of the
designer’s initial m located under the letter d of god.
Few examples of the variety are known and even fewer have traded.
Values are speculative at best until the variety becomes better known.
John Roberts is director of attribution services for ANACS. He is
a longtime collector of Morgan dollar varieties and is considered an
expert in attributing Morgan varieties.