September 2015 - Welcome


We made a number of important acquisitions in August, but they will not show up on the web site until the October time frame.  We are focused on having a complete set of VAMs for the 1881-O, but also to a representative grading set.  The grading side of the project has become more monetary than exploratory as we move up the grading scale, and therefore up the cost ladder.


In our early work and to manage the cost of grading, we have tried to be patient and look for coins that we feel are representative of a specific grade level, and worry about specific VAM designation later.  In the 1881-O series PL and DMPL coins often fall into the category of VAM 28.  We could look for others but the odds of finding them would be rare and we would have passed up valuable representative coins.


We have also found that, on occasion, coins that have received a VAM designation by PCGS are available and while they might seem to be at a premium, they are often a bargain because of time, effort, and rarity.  Specifically in August we picked up:


  • AU 53 - VAM 27 Double Ear
  • AU 55 - VAM 27 Double Ear
  • AU 58 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 61 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 61 - VAM 5 O/S
  • MS 61 PL - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 62 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 62 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 62 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 62 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 62 PL - VAM 5 O/S
  • MS 62 PL - VAM 5 O/S
  • MS 62 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 63 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 63 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 63 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 63 DMPL - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 64 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 64 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 64 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 64 - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 64+ - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 64 PL - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 64 DMPL - VAM Undetermined
  • MS 64+ DMPL - VAM Undetermined


In this group are several coins we grabbed because of their toning.  One MS 63 is clearly an end roll coin with the proper overlap of the coin wrapper markings.  And there is an MS 62 with a broad spectrum of colors that almost reaches monster toned status.  The MS 64+ DMPL was a stretch for us, but the only affordable one we have seen.  The MS 64 DMPL was also being sold at a discount and we thought a steal.  Once photographed and examined by VSS these 25 coins will be a valuable addition to the collection.


We feel like we need a minimum of 1% of the graded coins in each grade level to present a consistent picture.  Below AU this is relatively easy because we hold almost 40% of all graded coins.  This will be difficult in grades 62, 63, and 64 because this is the most active area of new grading with more than 3,000 coins in MS 62 and MS64, and another 6,000+ in MS 63 grade.  The subcategories of +, PL, and DMPL are a little easier, but cost becomes a factor.  Above MS 64 cost is the biggest inhibitor to acquisition.


We will get there, but it will take a while.

















If we are to have any discovery coins in September they will have to come from the large batch now at VSS.  The twenty coins listed on the left seem to us to be known VAMs, with five predetermined by PCGS.


More to come...........

1881-O Environmental Issues

Special consideration for the coins minted in New Orleans might be a topic of discussion when evaluating those Morgan Dollars.  For the minting of Morgan Dollars from 1878 through 1893, four mints were used (Philadelphia, San Francisco, Carson City, and New Orleans).


All Mint cities have some environmental issues to contend with, but we believe only New Orleans had the severe heat, water, and humidity challenges that could have damaged large portions of the stored inventory.


Between 1881 and 1893 when the Mint was used for production there were seven hurricanes that came into or near New Orleans.  Of particular interest is the year 1886 when two hurricanes hit the coast only four months apart.  But there were other years (1887, 1888, 1889, and 1893) when a single hurricane and multiple tropical storms hit the city.  And these events do not mention numerous tropical storms and the general challenges associated with living in a city below sea level.


The most severe storm was the last one in 1893 when a category four hurricane made landfall west of New Orleans.  While not a direct hit on New Orleans, the storm had a serge of sixteen feet and sustained winds of 135 miles per hour.  This storm followed closely behind a category two storm that hit only a month earlier.


We all know from observations during our lifetimes the effects of storms on New Orleans, and this was before the days of fancy levies and other preventative means.


Additional VAM Listings

After a lot of thought we finally decided to add the listings for VAMs that have been eliminated or consolidated in with other VAMs.  This removes questions concerning numbering and provides links ace to VAMworld for all the items listed there.


You will now see these added back to the "Coins BY VAM" section left hand menu with the designation "<Removed>" by the VAM number.

The 1881-O Market

Market Pricing

According to PCGS there was no movement in the prices for the 1881-O series in the month of August.  In fact, they show no real movement in prices of any substance below grade MS66 where they show a decline of roughly $6,000 for the MS66 and a rise in price of $6,000 for the MS 66+ since the beginning of 2015.  But so few of these coins change hands that the comparison as a trend may be useless.


Above grade 64 we feel like coins change hands partly because of certified grade, but also based on eye appeal.  If you are going to put down $10,000 plus for a coin it might as well meet your expectations for looks.



Through the end of August, PCGS certified 669 1881-O Morgan Dollars during 2015.  The highest percentage change was in coins certified below AU grades at 18%, but we know that was us certifying coins for our grading set and it is an anomaly that will not continue.  Once we obtain enough examples to illustrate each grade that activity will fall off and be minimal.


In AU grades the number of certified coins increased by only 73, but a 6% increase none the less, and we did not grade many of those.


As one might expect the largest percentage of coins graded is in the MS, PL, and DMPL grouping with an additional 574 coins now hitting the market for collectors.  This is a mere 3% increase, but the law of large numbers is at play.  The most active grade is always MS 63 where there were a fresh 269 base coins graded, with one addition MS63+, and two MS 63PL coins certified.


New Toned Coins

We are always on the lookout for interesting coins and we found a nice one on eBay toward the end of the month.  Toned coins are just interesting because of their beauty, but also for the chance to speculate about their history and the conditions that created the colors we see.


This coin is not going to rise to the level of monster toned, but the spectrum of colors is both appealing and intriguing.  The coin is both PCGS and CAC certified, so we feel good about its pedigree.


Until we get it in hand we have no speculation about VAM, but that may be irrelevant.