About VAMs column from the Nov. 28, 2016, issue of
A few years ago, I authored a detailed study of a single date titled
A Guide to the Varieties of the 1878 Carson City Morgan
Dollar. The work expanded on and clarified listings as found in
the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace
Dollars by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis.
My VAM-19 entry was revised to reflect that two different but
relatively nondescript obverse dies were paired with the reverse that
defined the original Van Allen–Mallis listing.
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In February 2013, Mitch Hill discovered a new stage with a radial
break through the R of AMERICA that reached the eagle’s wing. This was
confirmed and listed as VAM-19B. While the new find was interesting in
its own right, it also revealed a clear case of remarriage — dies that
had been paired together, swapped out, and then reunited for further production.
Several distinct stages involve the VAM-19 reverse. The earliest are
paired with Van Allen’s obverse Die 1 or VAM-19.1 for short. Several
rough lumps from the hub itself surround the E of ONE. These get
polished out partway through its use before the Die 1 obverse is taken
out of service. A new obverse was employed in the marriage VAM-19.2.
This obverse terminated after limited use when an apparently
instantaneous radial break formed near the top of Liberty’s coronet,
the VAM-19A stage.
What was unknown at the time of my book’s release is that the first
obverse was then placed back into service, only to have the reverse
suffer its progressive break.
At the time of Hill’s discovery in February 2013, it was clear there
had to be a stage of the VAM-19.1 remarriage that lacked the radial
break on the reverse. It can be identified by the pattern of reverse