Three years have passed since the publication of my book, A
Guide to the Varieties of the 1878 Carson City Morgan Dollar. A
few weeks ago, a fellow enthusiast contacted me about an 1878-CC
Morgan dollar he’d just purchased that did not appear to be listed.
After seeing a few pictures of Mitch Hill’s dollar, I thought I
needed a much closer look. He graciously forwarded his dollar. After
examining his find, I felt it was something that Leroy Van Allen also
needed to see. I had already planned a visit, so I brought Hill’s
example along. Van Allen concurred with my assessment. In a letter
dated Feb. 8, the new listing VAM-19B was officially created.
The variety is the final stage in the VAM-19 progression. Its
defining characteristic is a radial die break that passes through the
R of AMERICA and right wreath bough, almost reaching the wing. All
stages of the group share a common reverse. It can be identified by
the CC Mint mark, with the left C heavier than the right. An
additional diagnostic is a vertical gouge found between the eagle’s
neck and wing.
Two distinct obverses were paired with this reverse. The VAM-19B
also happens to be one of only a small handful of documented
remarriages in the Morgan dollar series. The specific obverse die used
includes a vertical line in front of Liberty’s eye and a strong line
that passes under the stem of the left cotton boll.
The first marriage of these two dies can be located with a little
patience. After a brief production run the obverse die was swapped
out. After another seemingly brief run, the second obverse broke
between the R and I of PLURIBUS, continuing down to LIBERTY, forming
the rare VAM-19A. The coiners of the Carson City Mint then retrieved
the first obverse and placed it back into service.
Apparently, the reverse broke almost immediately thereafter.
An estimate of value for the VAM-19B dollar would be speculation.
My best guess would be roughly equivalent to the value of a VAM-19A
dollar — which commands a significant premium.
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.