What is a VAM?

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If you read this and still have questions please visit our Peace an Morgan Dollar VAM Forum.

VAM refers to different varieties of Morgan and Peace Dollars. The name VAM derives from the two authors of the book The Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars, Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis. Leroy Van Allen is still to this day adding different VAM numbers to the known varieties (even though the book hasn't been updated since 1992) and he is the authority on Morgan and Peace Dollars. All of the major grading companies acknowledge some of the VAM designations but as of right now only ANACS will attribute each and every VAM known (a few thousand different varieties).

Very few VAMs have characteristics which are so obvious they can be seen with the naked eye. The overwhelming majority are identified through minute doubling of features or die damage-related markers. So, in most cases, attributing a VAM is a process requiring a loupe with minimum 15x magnification. It should be noted that in most cases, die cracks and clashing artifacts are not of themselves sufficient to warrant VAM designation, although they can qualify as a subvariety - for instance, if VAM-1 is identified, a clashed version of the same coin can be designated VAM-1A.

Die cracks abound on Morgan Dollars. If a crack becomes strong enough to be classified as a break (where the width of the crack becomes a measurable factor), in many cases it can become the primary identifying feature of an assigned VAM. 1921-D is the clearest example of this - many 1921-D VAMs are characterized by substantial die breaks. As time goes by, though, these are being identified as die states of another known VAM, and incorporated as subvarieties. The 1921-D VAM-1A is a case in point; it was recently identified as a die state of VAM-41, and is now known as VAM-41A or 41B.

Help Us Help You

There are certain areas which should be starting points for any attribution process. All of these details will not be present on every coin, but one or more of them will almost certainly figure into a successful attribution of any Morgan. Sometimes, but not always, these individual features are strong enough to be the primary attribute of a variety. If you are going to inquire about your Morgan here at Coin Community, there are the areas we will be asking to see: Date and Mintmark Location and Orientation | Doubled Dies | Die Polishing | Die Clashing

Date and Mintmark Location and Orientation

Count the number of denticles, starting at the point of the neck, to the left of the lower serif of the 1:

 VAM Locating the Date
Locating the Date
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Furthermore, is the date level with the denticles (all digits the same distance from them)? Are any digits individually raised or lowered?

Mint mark location and orientation, compared to the red grid:

 VAM Mint Mark Location
Mint Mark Location
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Doubled Dies

Many Morgans demonstrate doubling of one feature or another. This doubling can be in any direction. On the obverse, look for doubling:

Date

 VAM Date Doubling
Date Doubling
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Stars

 VAM Doubled Stars
Doubled Stars
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Lettering

 VAM Doubled Letters
Doubled Letters
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

LIBERTY

 VAM Liberty Doubling
Liberty Doubling
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

On the reverse, pay particular attention to the letters:

 VAM Reverse Doubling
Reverse Doubling
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Mint marks can be doubled. Usually, the doubling is only visible inside the mint mark - a "line" inside an "O," or serifs inside an "S:"

 VAM Doubled S
Doubled S
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Die Polishing

Morgan dies were polished before and during their use. Sometimes, overpolishing caused features to become weaker, or visible polishing lines were created. Some classic locations for these:

Obverse, nostril and detail in front of the eye polished away:

 VAM Nostril and detail in front of the eye polished away
Nostril and detail in front of the eye polished away
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Hair polished away:

 VAM Hair Polished Away
Hair Polished Away
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Reverse, overpolished wing:

 VAM Overpolished Wing
Overpolished Wing
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Reverse, tail feather overpolishing:

 VAM Tail Feather Over polishing
Tail Feather Over polishing
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Die Clashing

Sometimes a planchet fails to get fed into the press, and the two dies come into contact. When this happens, features from one die get transferred to the other, and these features are then impressed on the next planchets fed through. This is called "clashing," and it's very common with Morgans. The examples below show the major areas where clashing artifacts appear on Morgans:

Obverse Clashing

Note, extreme examples are shown; your coin may have similar features but much weaker.

The upper red oval is the most likely place to see obverse clashing on a Morgan. This is from the top edge of the eagle's right wing. It may be more or less close to the actual chin-neck junction; positions vary due to the rotation of the reverse die. The lower circle is letter transfer, the bottoms of the "n" from "In God we trust."

 VAM Obverse Clashing
Obverse Clashing
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Only the strongest clashes will show transfer in the next two images. "Spikes" from the reverse wreath, at the chin:

 VAM Obverse Clashing
Obverse Clashing
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Oval "A" is where you might see letter transfer from the "s" or "t" of "In God we trust," and oval "B" is transfer from the wreath:

 VAM Obverse Clashing
Obverse Clashing
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Reverse Clashing

The first image is the two places where one will most commonly see clashing, from the obverse neck (above the wing) and back of the cap (next to the wreath):

 VAM Reverse Clashing
Reverse Clashing
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

These are less-likely locations for clashing:

"A" is letter transfer from "LIBERTY." If you see this on your coin, you have something special. "B" and "C" are transfer from the front of the profile and the lips:

 VAM Reverse Clashing
Reverse Clashing
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

"A" is the "usual" clash. "B" is transferred detail from the obverse cotton bolls, and very uncommon:

 VAM Reverse Clashing
Reverse Clashing
VAMs
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Certified VAM on eBay

eBay Certified Application

Click on any of the boxes to see much larger images.

All Certified VAM

All Buy It Now Certified VAM

1891 CC MORGAN DOLLAR PCGS MS 63 VAM 3 'SPITTING EAGLE'
1891 CC MORGAN DOLLAR PCGS MS 63 VAM 3 'SPITTING EAGLE'
1887 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR TOP 100 VAM12 ALLIGATOR EYE PCGS MS63
1887 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR TOP 100 VAM12 ALLIGATOR EYE PCGS MS63
1923 D PEACE DOLLAR VAM 1E EXTRA HAIR ELITE 30 SILVER PCGS AU55
1923 D PEACE DOLLAR VAM 1E EXTRA HAIR ELITE 30  SILVER PCGS AU55
1923 S PEACE $ FLASHY LUSTER REV DIE CLASH VAM CROSS TO PCGS NGC ANACS
1923 S PEACE  $ FLASHY    LUSTER REV  DIE CLASH VAM CROSS TO PCGS    NGC  ANACS
1883 O/O TOP 100 VAM 4 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR GRADED MS 63 BY NGC
1883 O/O TOP 100 VAM 4 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR GRADED MS 63 BY NGC
1878 7/8TF MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR STRONG VAM 38 7/5 MS64 NGC
1878 7/8TF MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR STRONG VAM 38 7/5 MS64 NGC
1888 $1 NGC MS62 VAM 11 DOUBLE EAR INTERESTING TOP 100 VAM
1888 $1 NGC MS62  VAM 11 DOUBLE EAR  INTERESTING TOP 100 VAM
1887 $1 NGC MS65 VAM 12 DDO GATOR EYE TOP 100 VAM MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR
1887 $1 NGC MS65  VAM 12 DDO GATOR EYE  TOP 100 VAM   MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR
1891 CC $1 NGC MS64 VAM 3 SPITTING EAGLE DATE MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR
1891 CC $1 NGC MS64  VAM 3 SPITTING EAGLE   DATE   MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR
1880 O VAM 6C NGC MS62 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR EAR OVERDATE 9010
1880 O VAM 6C NGC MS62 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR EAR OVERDATE 9010
1891 CC MORGAN DOLLAR : NGC AU58 VAM 3 SPITTING EAGLE
1891 CC MORGAN DOLLAR : NGC AU58 VAM 3 SPITTING EAGLE
1892 O PCGS XF40 TOP 100 VAM 5 7 DOUBLED EAR MORGAN DOLLAR PRICE GUIDE $135
1892 O PCGS XF40 TOP 100 VAM 5 7  DOUBLED EAR MORGAN DOLLAR PRICE GUIDE $135
1880 PCGS XF40 TOP 100 VAM 7 8/7 CROSSBAR MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR PRICE GUIDE $185
1880 PCGS XF40 TOP 100 VAM 7 8/7 CROSSBAR MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR PRICE GUIDE $185
UNCIRCULATED 1878 P 8TF MORGAN DOLLAR VAM 14.1A "ALLIGATOR EYE" ANACS MS 62
UNCIRCULATED 1878 P 8TF MORGAN DOLLAR   VAM 14.1A
1887 ANACS VAM 5 DBL DT TOP 100 MS 60 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR I458
1887 ANACS VAM 5 DBL DT TOP 100 MS 60 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR I458
1887 VAM 5 DBL DT TOP 100 ANACS MS 62 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR I463
1887 VAM 5 DBL DT TOP 100 ANACS MS 62 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR I463
 

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