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What Is A VAM?
Interest & Rarity
Hubs to Dies
New VAM Variety
As straightforward as the discussion on hubs might be, dies are the opposite. The variations in dies can be thought of as deviations from the norm, starting with the original coin image and fanning out every time there is a discernible difference from the original intended form. And then for more fun there are deviation from the original deviant.
For every coin there is obviously an obverse and reverse die that come together to stamp out a coin. So you can have either a normal die, or a "deviant" die for each.
It is ultimately the combination of the dies that produce VAMs. But the further delineation comes from deviations within a die, or die pair from the intended strike.
Rarity of an issue is definitely defined by the frequency of the appearance of coins with these combinations, and the experience of dedicated collectors.
The list on the right groups recognized VAMs by obverse die, which helps understand the designation system and differences in VAMs. You can click on the VAMs or dies to see more detail. What can be confusing is that the descriptive names are not the full description of the coin variances.
For collectors of VAMs the obverse die is delineated by a number. Since all 1881-O coins are struck using the III hub, and a sub hub designation of 2, then the designation for the hub combination is III2.
When you introduce the die into the designation you will see designations like III2-2. There are 40 different dies that have been identified for the obverse of the 1881-O.
But the investigation into 1881-O dies can go much deeper. According to information in the appendix of "The Comprehensive U. S. Silver Dollar Encyclopedia" there were 119 dies produced for use in the New Orleans Mint. Not all dies were different, but the possibility for further discoveries seems highly likely.
As the list on the right shows, collectors have already identified 40 different obverse dies for the 1881-O. The bulk of these are die 1, which shows up in 31 different VAMs. The die has been found in combination with 14 different reverse dies. No other obverse die even comes close to these figures.
VAMs Sorted by Obverse Die