March 2017 - Welcome

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VAMs in Collection79VAMs in Collection


A Teaching Moment

Filling in the Gaps

All the coins we received from VSS are now on the web site with the exception of five coins we forwarded to Leroy Van Allen for his review.  This is a significant boost to the site content and took quite an effort to get them all there.  But it is done and now we can spend time analyzing rather than web site building.

On February 27 we received a package back from LVA and it is taking a little thought to get through all he communicated.  There is one discovery VAM and we will post that information here and on VAMworld when we are through understanding the totality of his letter.


These are from our last batch at VSS and we have the images as well as the LVA plate images.  We will post all of those here and on VAMworld as soon as we digest the information.

The new VAM identified is VAM 72 - Doubled 18, Polished Forehead.


But also included are revisions to VAMs 9 and VAM 20, together with the recommended combining of VAMs 1E and 53.  Interestingly this will make the combined VAMs 1E/53 the most populous in our collection.  This might also mean that VAM 53 is the most common of all 1881-O VAMs.

We always seem to have coins in the pipeline and we have two batches building.  Hopefully this month we will have about 58 PCGS graded coins headed to VSS for analysis and photography.  Included in this group are coins ranging from AG03 to MS64DMPL.


We are also working up to another 100 coin bulk submission, but this will come later in the year after VSS finishes with the earlier batch.  We are only a little over half way there on the accumulation of coins and we are really trying to grab anything that has the remote chance of being a VAM 21.  We may wind up with a lot of VAM 10 coins, but that is how it goes.


New Resource Found

We really are not trying to be in the book report business, but it seems like some nice reading is falling into our lap.  We are not completely through with this one, but it is good enough to go ahead and recommend.


The Spanish Treasure Fleets by Timothy R. Walton is an easily read but informative book covering the importance of New World precious metals to Spain and Europe.  The book starts in the late fifteenth century and covers not only collection and transportation of gold and silver to Spain, but also how it was used to fund wars and transact commerce.


If you have an interest in understanding the role of silver in international commerce then this is an excellent book.  We are reading the Kindle version, but it is also available in other formats.


If you follow the message board on VAMworld then you might have seen this post, but we want to record it here for the record.  There is always something to learn in the world of VAMing and this was one of those times.

We happened to spot this item on eBay and it peaked our curiosity.  To the seller's credit he did not advertise it as a new VAM but asked the question "Could it be a  new VAM?".  After contacting VSS the answer came back that it was most likely a cut of some type that had become rounded with wear and then filled with dirt over time.  But knowing that this would probably be a learning moment we decided to get the coin.

At first look this appears to be a large die gouge or break of some sort.  But taking our information from VSS we started to look at it in more detail under a microscope.

If it was a cut it appeared to us that it had to come from the bottom and extend up to the top of the beak.  Figuring that there was nothing to lose because the coin would probably not grade, we decided to do a little cleaning.  Under a microscope the cut became obvious, but difficult to clean out.  To finally remove all the "crud" from the cut we had to resort to the edge of a razor blade.  This alone confirmed that the feature originated with something like a knife with an extremely sharp edge.

There are several good lessons here.  First, in this world of VAMing rely on those with more experience since they prove to be right most of the time.  Second, we think of coins as being pretty tough, but silver is a soft metal and easily damaged.  And third, just because something looks like a potential new VAM doesn't make it one.


In the end we are glad we purchased the coin and went through the analysis.  The next time we will know more about this type damage and it was a fun teaching moment for not a lot of money.


The Missing VAMs

We continue to work down the list of missing VAMs and the progress is slow.  Like most collecting ventures the closer you get to the full set the more difficult that last coin becomes.  We are down to just eleven and these are proving to be tough.


Within the 1881-O series we are finding this to be especially difficult because of lack of documentation on some varieties.  So below is the list of missing VAMs from our collection and our perspective on rarity.  Just because we don't have one doesn't mean it is rare, only we have not found one.  But to us they are rare because after nearly 800 coins they have not materialized.

Extremely Rare

VAM 21 - O/O Top Right

VAM 29 - Doubled 18 and stars

VAM 1K - Clashed n and st

Very Rare

VAM 1I - Clashed obverse n and st

VAM 1J - Over Polished Reverse

VAM 45 - Doubled Left 1, O Set High


VAM 47 - Doubled Left 8 and Phrygian Cap

VAM 39 - Doubled Phrygian Cap & UNUM

VAM 31 - Doubled 18

VAM 48 - O/O Lines

VAM 55 - Doubled Right 1 Top & Right Side


This is our first take on how difficult these will be to find, and we will work on this topic during March.


Software Under Development

Our work on a software program targeting VAMs and VAM collectors continues.  We learn a little more each day about the practicality of certain features and just keep plugging away.


The core of the coin tracking is done and seems to work pretty well, so we are turning our attention to the tracking of VAM data.  Obviously VAMworld does a great job with the control and presentation of this data but there are some specific tracking ideas we want to explore and that will receive some attention during March.

We also will need to go back through every screen, report, and function to be sure those items are all working correctly.