About VAMS column from July 27, 2015, issue of Coin World:
The Morgan dollar was rushed into production after passage of the Bland-Allison Act on Feb. 28, 1878. The law
required coining dollars at an unprecedented rate.
The 1878 dollars have several design changes, and a sizable number
of modifications were made to individual dies to keep up with the
law’s production quotas.
One of the most dramatically modified working dies is found on the
reverse of the VAM-189 1878 Morgan dollar. This Reverse of 1878
variety was discovered by Michael Fey in August 2002 and cataloged in
New VAM Varieties of Morgan Dollars by Leroy Van Allen. It
was later included in the set presented in Official Guide to the
Morgan Dollar Hit List 40 by Jeff Oxman.
All Reverse of 1878 working dies required an unusual degree of die
polishing to compensate for the design being too flat for effective
coining. This basining work imparted a slight curvature to the die
face that would normally come from the hub, but it also left a number
of dies with overpolished areas. Mint workers attempted several
The VAM-189 1878 Morgan dollar is recognizable by a patch of
coarsely re-engraved feathers at the base of the eagle’s right wing.
Other portions of the eagle have also been strengthened by hand,
including the center of the inner right wing and upper tail feathers.
An additional point of interest is that the obverse is an earlier,
well defined state of a die that later is significantly overpolished
during its use. These later stages are used with the equally desirable
VAM-188 and -223 dollars. The two later stages in the obverse
progression have the L in LIBERTY “washed out.”
This weakening of the letter and coronet band was caused by an
attempt to remove clash marks. The reverse die from the VAM-189 coin
was likely retired when the clashing strike occurred. It is only found
in this fairly rare marriage.