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:

  Locating the Date
Locating the Date
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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:

  Mint Mark Location
Mint Mark Location
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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

  Date Doubling
Date Doubling
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Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Stars

  Doubled Stars
Doubled Stars
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Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Lettering

  Doubled Letters
Doubled Letters
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Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

LIBERTY

  Liberty Doubling
Liberty Doubling
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Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

On the reverse, pay particular attention to the letters:

  Reverse Doubling
Reverse Doubling
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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:"

  Doubled S
Doubled S
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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:

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

Hair polished away:

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

Reverse, overpolished wing:

  Overpolished Wing
Overpolished Wing
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Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Reverse, tail feather overpolishing:

  Tail Feather Over polishing
Tail Feather Over polishing
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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."

  Obverse Clashing
Obverse Clashing
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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:

  Obverse Clashing
Obverse Clashing
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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:

  Obverse Clashing
Obverse Clashing
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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):

  Reverse Clashing
Reverse Clashing
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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:

  Reverse Clashing
Reverse Clashing
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Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

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

  Reverse Clashing
Reverse Clashing
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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

1921 MORGAN DOLLAR PCGS MS 63 VAM 41B TOP 100
1921 MORGAN DOLLAR PCGS MS 63 VAM 41B TOP 100
1888 O $1 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR TOP 100 VAM 4 DDO HOT LIPS NGC XF40 LOTQ331
1888 O $1 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR TOP 100 VAM 4 DDO HOT LIPS  NGC XF40  LOTQ331
1890 CC MORGAN DOLLAR PCGS AU 58 TAILBAR VAM 4
1890 CC MORGAN DOLLAR PCGS AU 58 TAILBAR  VAM 4
NGC MS61 1888 O MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR NEW ORLEANS MINT TOP 100 VAM 1A 'E' CLASH
NGC MS61 1888 O MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR NEW ORLEANS MINT TOP 100 VAM 1A 'E' CLASH
1891 CC MORGAN DOLLAR MS 61 NGC VAM 3 SPITTING EAGLE SKU171088
1891 CC MORGAN DOLLAR MS 61 NGC  VAM 3 SPITTING EAGLE    SKU171088
1878 7/8TF TOP 100 VAM 44 7/5TF TRIPLE BLOSSOM $1 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR XF 45 NGC
1878 7/8TF TOP 100 VAM 44 7/5TF TRIPLE BLOSSOM $1 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR XF 45 NGC
1883 O/O TOP 100 VAM 4 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR NGC MS63 UNC BU V 9
1883 O/O TOP 100 VAM 4 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR NGC MS63 UNC BU V 9
1900 O VAM 15A NGC MS64 DDO STARS CLASH MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR TOP 100 VAM15A
1900 O VAM 15A NGC MS64 DDO STARS   CLASH MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR TOP 100 VAM15A
1880/9S VAM 11 NGC MS 62 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR GENE L HENRY LEGACY COLLECTION
1880/9S VAM 11 NGC MS 62 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR GENE L HENRY LEGACY COLLECTION
1880/9S VAM 11 NGC MS 61 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR GENE L HENRY LEGACY COLLECTION
1880/9S VAM 11 NGC MS 61 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR GENE L HENRY LEGACY COLLECTION
1878 S $1 PCGS MS61 VAM 19 TORN BONNET MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR
1878 S $1 PCGS MS61  VAM 19 TORN BONNET    MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR
1880 S MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR ANACS MS 64 VAM 11 "HOT 50" REF941
1880 S MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR   ANACS MS 64 VAM 11
1897 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR ANACS MS 64 VAM 6A TOP 100 BEAUTIFUL COIN REF225
1897 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR   ANACS MS 64 VAM 6A  TOP 100  BEAUTIFUL COIN  REF225
1897 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR ANACS MS 64 VAM 6A TOP 100 BEAUTIFUL COIN REF302
1897 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR   ANACS MS 64 VAM 6A  TOP 100  BEAUTIFUL COIN  REF302
1897 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR ANACS MS 64 VAM 6A TOP 100 BEAUTIFUL COIN REF219
1897 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR   ANACS MS 64 VAM 6A  TOP 100  BEAUTIFUL COIN  REF219
1888 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR VAM 11A TOP 100 DDO EAR & CLASH R5 MS63 NGC
1888 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR VAM 11A TOP 100 DDO EAR & CLASH R5 MS63 NGC
 

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