A. George Mallis, noted numismatic researcher and author, died December 30, 1999 at the age of 85. He was an expert on U.S. silver dollar varieties and co-author, with Leroy Van Allen, of the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars.
The term "VAM," used to identify silver dollar varieties, is an acronym formed from the authors' initials -- "VA" for Van Allen and "M" for Mallis.
Mallis was born in Springfield, Mass., and began collecting coins in 1928, at the age of 13, when he inherited a group of foreign coins from an uncle who had served overseas during World War I. He built an extensive collection of general U.S. coins over the next few decades before zeroing in on silver dollars.
Mallis also had a special interest in coin scales -- a subject that appealed to his technical bent. He had attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts and graduated with honors from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania with a degree in civil engineering.
He also was a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and served in the Army for seven years before and during World War II, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. Following the war, he worked as a structural engineer and opened his own architecture and engineering firm. He retired in 1979.
Mallis became intrigued with silver dollar varieties when his work took him to Washington, D.C., and he began buying bags of dollars from the U.S. Treasury on a weekly basis. One day, he noticed the numerous varieties in a bag of 1878 Morgan dollars and began recording his observations. By 1964, he had examined more than 64,000 silver dollars and he detailed his findings in a pamphlet entitled List of Die Varieties of Morgan Head Silver Dollars.
He began his collaboration with Leroy Van Allen in 1966, and their joint labors led to publication of the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia in 1971. A revised edition, published in 1976, was honored in 1977 as Book of the Year by the Numismatic Literary Guild. In 1993, the third edition captured the same prestigious award -- a rare repeat performance.
The book is regarded today as the Bible of modern silver dollar collecting, and VAM numbers are used on a regular basis by virtually all specialists in the field.
Mallis also wrote many articles on silver dollars, coin scales and other subjects for leading numismatic periodicals. In addition, he taught courses at Adelphi University on Long Island and Springfield Technical College in his hometown.
He was a member of numerous hobby organizations, including the American Numismatic Association, the American Numismatic Society, the British Numismatic Society, the Numismatic Literary Guild, the New England Numismatic Association and the Old Time Assay Commissoners. He had served on the U.S. Assay Commission in 1962.
His wife, Dorothy, preceded him in death by five days on Dec. 25, the couple's wedding anniversary.