US Coins

Why VAM-56 is among the most interesting Morgans

About VAMS column from Dec. 26, 2016, weekly issue of Coin World:

The field of variety collecting took a giant leap forward with the publication of the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis.

The 1879-S Morgan, Reverse of 1878 dollars have been routinely included in the basic date and Mint set. The Reverse of 1878 features a flat breasted eagle with seven tail feathers and parallel arrow feathers. It was used for a portion of the production for the 1878 dollar, the 1879-S marriage under discussion, and the 1880-CC dollar. It was also used for the entire mint­age of the 1878-CC and 1878-S Morgan dollars. Some of the more elusive 1879-S Morgan dollar die marriages have only recently been described in exacting detail.

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In May 2004, Larry Briggs dis­covered a new and apparently very rare 1879-S variety that mated a previously unknown obverse die with a well-known reverse employed in several other marriages, including two from the previous year’s production. It was cataloged as VAM-56.

The reverse features curious pitting on and under the right wing on the 1879 marriages, VAMs 4, 23, 25 and VAM-56. No pitting is present on the 1878-S marriages sharing the die, VAMs 1C and 95.

It was long assumed the dot-like pits were rust, but recent review of the VAM-56 in this colu­mn’s photos strongly suggests that ex­pedient touch up work on the die, with acid, may have played a part.

Morgan dollar history

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. How much are Morgan dollars worth?

The obverse is instantly identifiable by a strong break along the back of Liberty’s cap.

This feature is present on all known examples, leading to the possibility that this obverse was used for other production first.

Other obverse dies used in the Reverse of 1878 group of 1879-S Morgan dollars have been found paired with the standard dollar reverse hub. The entire issue is the subject of ongoing research.

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