About VAMs column from the Sept. 26, 2016, weekly issue of
Dollar production in 1878 was a rushed and, in some cases, haphazard
affair. The recently passed Bland-Allison Act included manufacturing quotas
that left little time for trials to find and correct any problems that
might arise from an untested design.
The first Morgan silver dollars rolled off the presses on March 11,
and featured the 8 Tail Feathers reverse. Problems with the lifespan
of die marriages using this design caused it to be replaced with the
Reverse of 1878 after a little more than a month in service.
Connect with Coin World:
The first obverse design, today called the Type I design, was also
quickly replaced with a revised version that researchers today call
the Type II obverse.
While the Type I and Type II obverse designs are similar, subtle
differences are seen in the ear, rim, stars, lettering and overall
relief. The Mint used an expedient method of rehubbing dozens of Type
I obverse dies with the Type II design in an attempt to extend their
life. Using two different designs to make a working die naturally
results in design hub doubling, commonly noted as a Class III doubled
The first listing in Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of
Morgan & Peace Dollars by Leroy Van Allen and A. George
Mallis with this sort of obverse is the VAM-15. It features a strong
sideways shift in the letters of LIBERTY and complex doubling on all
of the stars. The alignment of the stars, and specifically how they
were slightly rotated relative to each other, was different on the two
obverse designs, and the comingled result is an oddly stacked and
The VAM-15 coin was almost certainly one of the first attempts at
dual hubbing in the Morgan series. Its rarity and its obverse made it
a natural choice for Jeff Oxman and Michael Fey when they penned
The Top 100 Morgan Dollar Varieties: The VAM Keys.