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
VAM on eBay
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
VAM on eBay
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
VAM on eBay
Image Courtesy of Wipped on eBay

Stars

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

Lettering

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

LIBERTY

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

On the reverse, pay particular attention to the letters:

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

Hair polished away:

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

Reverse, overpolished wing:

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

Reverse, tail feather overpolishing:

 VAM Tail Feather Over polishing
Tail Feather Over polishing
VAM on eBay
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
VAM on eBay
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
VAM on eBay
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
VAM on eBay
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
VAM on eBay
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
VAM on eBay
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
VAM on eBay
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

M13131 1900 O VAM 15 VAM 15 DDO STARS MORGAN NGC MS65 PL POP 1/0 FINEST KNOWN
M13131  1900 O VAM 15 VAM 15 DDO STARS MORGAN NGC MS65 PL   POP 1/0 FINEST KNOWN
1903 S $1 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR VF30 PCGS 13857248 VAM 2 MICRO S TOP 100
1903 S $1 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR VF30 PCGS 13857248 VAM 2 MICRO S TOP 100
1900 O $1 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR MS63 PCGS CAC 12137901 VAM 8A O/CC
1900 O $1 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR MS63 PCGS CAC 12137901 VAM 8A O/CC
1886 O $ MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR COIN ANACS VAM11 VF20 A163
1886 O $ MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR COIN ANACS  VAM11 VF20  A163
1879 CC MORGAN ICG VF 20 CAPPED DIE VAM 3 TOP 100
1879 CC MORGAN ICG VF 20 CAPPED DIE VAM 3 TOP 100
1883 O VAM 36A "E" CLASH HOT 50 NGC MS 63 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR
1883 O VAM 36A
1878 S PCGS MS63 VSS VAM 80 ENGRD WING F LINES IN EAGLE DBLD E PL R B
1878 S PCGS MS63  VSS VAM 80  ENGRD WING F LINES IN EAGLE DBLD E PL R B
1885 ANACS GRADED MS61 VAM 4A DASH UNDER 8 CLSHED OBV N & UST REV M SUPER CD
1885 ANACS GRADED MS61 VAM 4A DASH UNDER 8 CLSHED OBV N & UST REV M  SUPER CD
1884 O/O PCGS GRADED MS63 VSS VAM 7A FAR DATE PITTED DIE ED
1884 O/O  PCGS GRADED MS63 VSS VAM 7A  FAR DATE PITTED DIE ED
1878 S PCGS MS63 VAM 17A HIT LIST 40 SUPER CD & TOP 30 1878 S DIE VARIETY
1878 S PCGS MS63  VAM 17A  HIT LIST 40 SUPER CD & TOP 30 1878 S DIE VARIETY
1886 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR VAM 21 TOP 100 LINE IN M MPD R3 MS62 PCGS CALIFORNIA
1886 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR VAM 21 TOP 100 LINE IN M MPD R3 MS62 PCGS CALIFORNIA
1878 MORGAN DOLLAR 7/8TF VAM 37 STRONG ANACS MS62 32467
1878 MORGAN DOLLAR   7/8TF VAM 37 STRONG   ANACS MS62  32467
1887 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR VAM 5 TOP 100 DOUBLED DATE R4 AU58 PCGS
1887 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR VAM 5 TOP 100 DOUBLED DATE R4 AU58 PCGS
1880 8/7 TOP 100 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR $1 VAM 9 STEM NGC MS63
1880 8/7 TOP 100 MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR $1 VAM 9 STEM NGC MS63
1921 TOP 100 VAM 41B MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR $1 NGC MS63 PITTED REVERSE
1921 TOP 100 VAM 41B MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR $1 NGC MS63 PITTED REVERSE
1883 VAM10 AU DETAILS DAMAGED MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR $1 ANACS GRADED TOP 100 VAM
1883 VAM10 AU DETAILS DAMAGED MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR $1 ANACS GRADED TOP 100 VAM
 

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