A New die marriage for the 1878 Morgan Dollar had been discovered by Kenneth Robb, a collector whose primary interest center around Vam varieties for the popular Morgan Silver Dollar series.
When a Morgan or Peace Dollar is attributed with a VAM number, this means it is one of the recognized varieties that are listed in the Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars.
This book was written by Leroy Van Allen & George Mallis -- their initials make up the abbreviation VAM.
Each different date/mint combination has it's own set of varieties and VAM numbers. VAM-4 would be the 4th listed variety for that specific date/mint. A VAM-4 for one date/mint will not be the same for a different date/mint.
Each of these VAMs has its own rarity & interest factor. A rare variety with a high interest factor will be quite valuable -- a common, low-interest variety may not have any premium at all. The rarity and interest factors are listed in the encyclopedia, but prices are not.
Vam collectors are passionate about their specialty, and this is the first new discovery of a new die marrige for a 1878 with B1 reverse that has been reported in the past 45 years.
First posted on the Coin Community message boards on October 21st, and then on the Vamword website several hours later, the coin initially had collectors stumped in trying to reconcile the die charactoristics with the then known Vam Varieties. It was suggested by several collectors that the coin be sent to Vam expert Leroy Van Allen for inspection and attribution.
On October 26th, the following news reportedly arrived from Mr. Van Allen:
NEW 1878 P B1 DIE VARIETY LISTING
In late October 2010, Kenneth Robb sent a nice condition PL 1878 P with B1 type reverse that had the II/I 6 obverse of VAM 80. However, he pointed out that the reverse die didn't match the reverse die cracks of VAM 80 and also didn't have the die chips on the eagle's right wing. Furthermore, the reverse die didn't seem to match any of the known B1 reverse listings.
Examination of the coin confirmed that the reverse die was a new variety combined with the VAM 80 obverse die. So it is the first new die combination for 1878 P B1 reverse varieties since they were originally listed in Van Allen's 1965 booklet, Morgan and Peace Dollar Varieties. Some sub-varieties had been added for VAMs 80A and 84A in 2003 and 2006 for the clashed die letters. This is a major new variety find for the 1878 P 7TF varieties and has been listed as a new VAM 85.
The sample coin had proof-like fields without any trace of die wear lines. But a peripheral die crack all around the [reverse] die would likely have caused early die retirement. The obverse die was an earlier die state than VAM 80. So this die combination of the new VAM 85 must be very rare to have gone undetected all of these years!
The obverse die shared with the VAM 80 II/I 6 has a doubled motto, some stars, top wheat leaves and grains, last four letters in LIBERTY, cotton leaves, 878 and Phrygian cap fold. The doubled cap fold is a key identifier for this obverse die.
The unique new reverse die has over polished left three disconnected olive leaves and a small blank spot in the middle of the eagle's left wing. There is a vertical thread-like die impression at the tip of the eagle's right wing and another horizontal die impression at the upper right of the upper tail feathers. A good die marker is some raised die chips at the left side of the upper tail feathers. There is a strange raised "7" on the right leg of the A in STATES, probably from the die polishing.
A major new find that is very rare!
Congratulations to Kenneth Robb. Surly this will be one of the highlights of his collecting career and most certainly inspire other Van collectors to take a second look at the coins they hold in thier collections.
Note: CoinLink will update this story as new information is received and as more Hi-res images are made available.