March 2019 - Welcome



Die Fingerprints

The Missing VAMs

VSS Submissions

Thanks to JB we have our February submission back and as we suspected there were no discovery VAMs in the group.  The goal was additional grading material, so it all worked out.


Those coins are now on the web site.

Fingerprints Project

This month we continue our deep dive into specific dies and die pairs and there is much more in the explanations on this page.


If you are new to VAMing this will hopefully spark some interest in this area of the hobby.

Toned Coins in This Batch

In the current group of coins from VSS there are a number of coins that we placed in our Toned Coins section for analysis.

20765381     AU 53VAM 5031377268     MS 62VAM 24.2

85167378    MS 62VAM 2520783101    MS 63VAM 33

There are no coins with stunning color but a lot of nice coins with color!

Last month we did a deep dive into the dies used on VAMs 20, 1J, 1K, 20, 24.1, 34A, 1H/40, 54, and 61.  We also did a brief side trip to drag in VAM 16, but only to rule it out.


But to finish up this analysis (hopefully) we need to weave in a look at Reverse Die l, starting with VAM 61 and expanding out from there.  Months ago we looked at the connections between the obverse dies for VAMs 34, 34A, and 61.


This is an expanded look at that analysis to look at "O Set Left" reverse dies, which brings in thirteen VAMs: 3, 23, 32, 34A, 35, 54, 56, 57, 60, 61, 64, 67, and 70.  VAM 61 overlaps with the group studied last month because of its obverse die.

Our inventory includes multiple examples of all these VAMs with the exception of VAM 64 where we have only the Discovery Coin as a reference.


Then a Roadblock

But then as we got into the analysis we hit a roadblock at VAM 35 - Doubled 188, O Set Left.  As so often happens with this hobby, investigation leads to discovery and you are slowed to work and understand what you are seeing.


We have 14 examples of VAM 35 in our inventory, 11 in mint state condition.  So there is plenty of material to work with.


Starting with our highest graded coin, a Mint State 64+ we discovered a die crack over the mint mark that looked suspiciously like the die crack on the VAM 1H/40 combination we discussed in February .


So before we can look at the whole group of thirteen VAMs we need to take a little side trip through VAM 35 to decide if there is something new here.


As of this writing we are still missing eight VAMs to have a complete set.  Thanks to a discovery and documentation and large VSS images from John Grimmer on VAMworld we had a better idea of just what to look for in our search.


The reverse of VAM 53 is shared with VAM 47, so it is likely that we have passed on a lot of these over the past two years when VAMs 1E and 53 were combined.  We have so many VAM 53's that we stopped looking at any coins with the distinctive reverse die crack through the mint mark.  But our identification was accurate because we found no VAM 47 coins lumped in with the VAM 53's by accident.

We will be sending this coin to VSS in the next batch for verification, but we are pretty certain that this identification is correct.  It is on an MS 63, so the die cracks are not as pronounced as on John's coin but they are there.


Morgan Dollar "Fingerprints"

Understanding the relationship between thirteen die pairs is essential to understanding the emission sequence for these thirteen VAMs.  This is a continuation of the discussion from February, and here we examine the reverse dies of ten VAMs sharing the designation of Reverse Die l (lowercase L).  Three VAMs have different designations but are included because of VAMworld references or notations.  They are:

  • VAM 60 with a designation of Reverse Die r
  • VAM 67 with a designation of Reverse Die s
  • VAM 34A with a designation of Reverse Die a


We are not taking at face value that they are the same, but as with others in this discussion we are using die cracks, or failure evidence, to draw connections.  As with the February group we are sure some will be connections can be proven and some not, but that is what this is all about.


For this analysis we have used the following inventory count:

VAM 3 - Doubled 18-1, O Set Left - 19 Coins

VAM 23 - Doubled Profile, O Set Left - 11 Coins

VAM 32 - Doubled 18-1, O Set Left - 12 Coins

VAM 34A - Doubled 18, Pinned Wing - 18 Coins

VAM 35 - Doubled 188, O Set Left - 14 Coins

VAM 54 - Doubled Right 1 Bottom, O Set Left - 18 Coins

VAM 56 - Doubled Right 1 Lower Right - 4 Coins

VAM-57 - Doubled Ear Right Inside, O Set Left - 3 Coins

VAM 60 - Doubled OF AMERICA, O/O Left and Set Left - 2 Coins

VAM 61 - Doubled 18, O Set Left - 13 Coins

VAM 64 - Doubled 18, Polished Forehead, O Set Left - 1 Coin

VAM 67 - Doubled 18 and Upper Reverse - 6 Coins

VAM 70 - Doubled Cap Top, UNUM, O Set Left - 2 Coins


This is obviously a large group of coins to examine, 123 to be exact, but we have some added incentive to examine this group.  There are eight VAMs in this discussion (54, 56, 57, 60, 61, 64, 67, and 70) where we are the discoverer of the VAM.  So validating that information is important to us.


That is why we are doing a little side trip through VAM 35 first to resolve a conflict we discovered before working on the whole group.  The die crack we discovered on coin 31451530 looks like the reverse of VAM 1H/40, but is it?


Obverse Die 1

Reverse Die a

Obverse Die 27

Reverse Die a

VAM 35 - Doubled 188, O Set Left    Coin 82682128

Obverse Die 24

Reverse Die l

VAM 35 - Doubled 188, O Set Left    Coin 31451530

Obverse Die 24

Reverse Die l?

Taking it one issue at a time

Are the obverses on coin 31451530 and the others the same die?

In our inventory there are eleven mint state coins with a designation of VAM 35.  Of those, ten appear to have the same reverse and one has a different reverse.  But is the obverse of all eleven coins Die 24?


Since we are studying die cracks in this analysis the first thing we did was look at the coins starting with our highest grade and working down the line.  We looked at all fourteen, but there is enough mint state material to confine our remarks to that group.


All eleven coins appear to have the distinctive series of die cracks that flow through the date in exactly the same place.  They overlay exactly, so we believe these are all correctly identified as Obverse Die 24.


Looking at the pictures above everything aligns between the two coins for the obverse dies, including the degree of polishing of the hair curls where they meet Liberty's bust at the back of the neck.


Are the reverses on coin 31451530 and the others the same die, just different die states?

All the coins but one show no reverse die cracks, and this is our highest graded coin.  There are two distinctive differences in the reverses of coins 82682128 and 31451530.  First the die cracks do not align, and in fact only coin 31451530 exhibits any die cracks in the group.  The extensive cracks can be see on the larger images above, but of particular interest are the die cracks at the bow and left leaves.


Then on all but coin 31451530 there are no signs of clashing as there is with all other VAM 35 coins in the collection.


And finally we asked ourselves if the mint marks align?  And the answer is not quite, and on our different coin, 31451530, there appear to be some lines inside the mint mark but this is reflection in the camera and not on the coin.


On our coin with the single example, 31451530, the mint mark is more centered and upright than on the others.


Is the reverse of this die used in VAM 35 the same die as the one used in VAM 1H/40?

As much as these look alike, they are similar but different with regard to the die cracks.  They are in the same area and follow a similar pattern, but like cracks around the legend they can be and are different.


Reverse Die l?VAM 35 - Doubled 188, O Set LeftCoin 31451530VAM 40 - Doubled Ear Inside and BottomCoin 24909742Reverse Die a


And the final nail in the coffin on these being the same is the pinned wing of VAM 1H/40.  This feature is lacking on VAM 35 and we do not believe this is a die state issue.



We believe that we have identified a new VAM, or at least a new pairing of Obverse Die 24 with a different reverse die than Reverse Die l.  We will obviously wait on confirmation and seek some other opinions, but for now in the greater study of the "O Set Left" varieties the coin with the reverse die cracks needs to be left out of that discussion.  It just lacks too many features on the Reverse Die l found on the other VAM 35 coins.


It is also possible that this is a known die, just not a die pairing and that may emerge during the broader look at the "O Set Left" coins.


Back to the other study in March!