About VAMS column from July 25, 2016, Weekly issue of
During most of the period that Morgan dollars were produced,
four-digit gang punches were used to sink the respective dates into
individual working dies. While the date position varied from die to
die, the spacing between the digits remained constant almost without exception.
Because of the nature of how the dates were sunk, it’s only natural
that there would be some less than perfect results. For example, when
the several blows required to achieve full depth were not almost
perfectly aligned, the result was a die variety we now refer to as a
Connect with Coin World:
One of the more dramatic repunched dates in the series is found on
the VAM-7 1899-S Morgan dollar, first reported in October 1973 by
variety hunter Bill Fivaz. His find was described in detail in the
Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace
Dollars by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis.
The VAM-7 Morgan dollar may be instantly identified by the curves of
secondary digits inside and above both 9s. While the feature can get
faint on the first 9 in late die stage examples, the second 9 is
always pretty obvious to the eye of a variety minded collector.
Closer examination reveals repunching on the underside of the flag
of the 1, and this apparently is a separate event from the blow that
produced the wide and slanted spread on the 99. Examination of the
upper edge of the second 9 shows another secondary image in a
different direction, likely the same errant blow that affected the
This obverse seems to only be paired with one reverse. Two different
sized Mint marks were used for this year. The medium, narrower style
was employed for this marriage.
There is a short but strong gouge protruding from the base of the
wing, parallel to the eagle’s leg.
What is a VAM?
VAM dollars are Morgan or Peace silver dollars that have been
labeled according to a system of cataloging based on very small
differences that determine the dies that were used to strike each
coin. The system was developed by, and named for, Leroy Van Allen (VA)
and A. George Mallis (M).
Victoria Stone explained how VAMs are labeled in a 1998 issue
of Coin World:
"The VAM system is based upon die pairings; an individual
obverse die and reverse die together receive a VAM number, such as 10.
That number means that for the year the coin is dated, the coin was
struck by the tenth known die pairing cataloged by Van Allen and Mallis."
VAMs are labeled with numbers (and sometimes letters for
subcategories) such as VAM-2, VAM-3, VAM-4, etc.
there are more than 3,000 different VAM varieties, the Professional
Coin Grading Service recognizes only 317 Morgan and 52 Peace
"Most of the VAMs are not significant and
do not bring a premium over the common variety,” PCGS’s
website reads. "The varieties that PCGS will do have been
identified by variety collectors as worthy of specific recognition."
More about the Morgan dollar
For decades the Morgan dollar has ranked at the top U.S. coin
collectors' favorite coins. Why is the Morgan dollar so popular?
There are many reasons, including: large size, attractive designs,
numerous varieties, historical significance.
Read the Morgan dollar's full story.