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What Are Similitudes
If one reads the dictionary definition for "similitudes" a clear option is a two or more things having a "visible likeness."
We can think of no better word to describe the groups of coins bearing common characteristics. In fact, it is this visible likeness that ultimately leads one down the path of a decision tree to make the final VAM determination.
VAMworld and Similitudes
On the web site VAMworld four broad categories of recognition exist for the 1881-O. These four are:
On this web site we will tackle these four first, but in time explore others that cut across these.
One of the most confusing things arises from the practical need to keep VAM names unique and reasonable short. These is also the problem that once a characteristic becomes pervasive it tends to lose the need to be mentioned.
For example, the Spiked Eight characteristic is present in almost half of the 1881-O VAMs. But in the title of the VAMs "Spiked Eight" appears only three times. So in later VAM naming the "spiked eight" had become pervasive and not considered to be the dominant characteristic.
1881-O Commonly Identified Similitudes
With the 1881-O series there is a small group of coins that share a trait of overpolished hair at the back of the head and near the designer's initial. In no case is this a dominant trait for the VAM.
However, if you find a coin with this trait you will have narrowed the search for the proper VAM considerably.
Clashed variety coins are often easily recognized and provide a great area of study all by themselves. When you are buying from the Internet they are often easily recognized, but the finer details are difficult to determine.
This lack of specificity makes on-line buying difficult and more like a treasure hunt since some can be merely clashed, but not a VAM. A clashed coin without letter transfer can be a very nice, attractive, and interesting coin. But lacking letter transfer it is only that.
Gouge in DOLLAR
In our experience the doubled ear varieties of 1881-O are easy to recognize under magnification but often very difficult to differentiate with the naked eye. Like clashed dies, these can be difficult to buy without the coin in hand because the reflection behind the ear can often appear to be a doubling.
There can also be a tendency to think all double ears are the valuable VAM 27 and to overpay.
Gouge in DOL
Sometimes referred to as "Gouge in DOLLAR", "Gouge in DOL", and "Gouge in OL" this grouping has the common characteristic of a gouge going in some direction through a portion of the word DOLLAR on the reverse of the coin. In some cases this gouge is accompanied by other markings in the same area that wore away quickly.