Chapter 15: Morgan Dollars, Guide to Collecting and Investing Table of Contents

Additional Thoughts
A compromise between collecting nothing exceptbasic dates and mintmarks and collecting everythingin the Van Allen-Mallis book is to pick a single date,perhaps a common one such as 1884, and within thatdate collect as many Van Allen-Mallis varieties aspossible (the new 3rd edition of the VAM book lists12).

Alan Herbert, well-known columnist for Numismatic News, contributed the following for inclusion in this book:

Where to start? You are welcome to quote me as saying that the Morgan and Peace dollars undoubtedly are the two most lucrative series of any denomination for anyone with even the slightest interest in die varieties. With all due respect to Leroy Van Allen and George Mallis, the surface has only been touched on as far as varieties are concerned. The sheer numbers of overdates, repunched dates, doubled-dies, repunched and overmintmarks in these two series are literally beyond the scope of any but the most dedicated expert.

"S" Mintmark Sizes and Types
The following article by Jeff Oxman appeared in the Journal of the SSDC, Fall-Winter 1991, and is reprinted with permission:

Six different styles of S mintmarks were used on Morgan dollars struck at the San Francisco Mint. The two primary ones were the "Medium S," which was employed on a non-exclusive basis all the way from 1879 to 1900, and the "Large S," which was common to Morgan dollar issues beginning in 1899 and continuing through 1904.

But it is the other four mintmarks that receive the most attention from variety specialists. The "Square, Micro S" mintmark, found exclusively on 1878-S Morgans, was probably a carryover from the trade dollar series. An interesting variety was then created when a few of the 1878 reverse dies with this mintmark were apparently leftover at the end of 1878, and for the sake of expediency, were used the following year. The result is a series of scarce 1879-S varieties with the so-called "Reverse of 1878." Rare in high grades, a top end specimen was recently offered for $15,000l

1880 is also notable for its two different "S" mintmark styles. First, the "Medium S" that was introduced in 1879 remained in use. But in addition, an extremely large "S" can be found on a substantial number of 1880-S Reverse dies. According to Van Allen and Mallis, this punch was a throwback to the Liberty Seated dollar series. A decision was undoubtedly made by the end of the year to discontinue its use, because the "Very Large S" is, as far as presently known, unique to 1880-S coinage.

The "Medium S" mintmark continued to be the mainstay of the series. until 1899, when a new "Large S" mintmark was introduced. It may be the case that the "Medium S" punch simply wore out as a result of its many years of use. Beginning in 1900, the "Large S" became the principal mintmark used on all U.S. silver dollars.

A particularly intriguing mintmark variety was created in 1903, when an apparent blunder on the part of a Mint engraver resulted in the unintentional use of a. Micro "S" mintmark on a single Reverse die. While every die variety of 1903-S exhibits a "Large S" except this one, here the "Round, MicroS'; is thought to be identical to an "S" mintmark used on San Francisco Barber quarters. Avidly sought after by variety collectors, the 1903-S with Micro "S" is considered scarce in grades up to EF, and is rare in AU. Indeed, the finest known only grades Choice AUI

The sixth, and final, "S" mintmark was probably created for the express purpose of being used on the re-introduced Morgan dollar of 1921. Because this "Thin, Micro S" is unlike any other mintmark, it might be considered a valuable one-year type were it not {or the fact that it was used on all 21,695,000 silver dollars struck that year! That is more than sufficient to make the "Thin, Micro S" exceedingly common, even if found only on coins dated 1921.

All mintmarks are, of course, added to the dies at the Philadelphia Mint before shipment to the branch mints, so blame for any mintmark irregularities, such as the use of a wrong punch, must be placed there. But rather thanlament the inadvertent mistakes of Mint personnel, variety specialists rejoice in the Mint history and happenstance that combine to make mintmark variety collecting the fascinating area of numismatics that it is today.

Similar studies could be done of the different mintmark sizes among Morgan dollars from the Carson City and New Orleans mints.

Rotated Dies
When one die or another became loose in the coining press, it rotated from its normal orientation. Coins showing rotational misalignment are known of the following dates, mintmarks, and VAM varieties. The degrees of rotation from normal orientation are given and are from VAM. (The Rota-Flip, a device for measuring degrees of die rotation, is available with an instruction booklet for $21.95 postpaid from Leroy C. Van Allen, Box 196, Sidney, OH 45365.)

Note that by far the most rotated die varieties are from the New Orleans Mint, evidence of lack of attention to the coining presses there. A dramatically rotated die can add considerably to the numismatic value of a coin. Certain varieties show these deviations from the normal 1800 alignment:
1878-CC VAM-5. 26° to 90° clockwise.
1883-O VAM-1. 35° to 75° counterclockwise.
1886-O VAM-4. 25° to 48° clockwise.
1886-O VAM-11. 33° to 45° counterclockwise.
1887 VAM-1. 70° to 142° clockwise and also 800 to 1400 counterclockwise.
1888-O VAM-9. 30° clockwise to 1750 counterclockwise.
1889 VAM-1. 20° counterclockwise.
1889-O VAM-1. 60° to 105° clockwise.
1889-O VAM-3. 36° to 72° clockwise.
1889-O VAM-9. 25° to 46° clockwise.
1890-O VAM-2. 20° to 60° clockwise.
1890-O VAM-8. 36° counterclockwise.
1891-O VAM-1. 50° to 120° counterclockwise.
1894-O VAM-6. 25° counterclockwise.
1898-O VAM not recorded (information per Breen). 150 
1899-O VAM not recorded (information per Breen). 45° and 90°.
1904-O VAM-2. 108° counterclockwise.
1904-O VAM-13. 28° to 70° counterclockwise.
1921 VAM-3. 45° counterclockwise.


Chapter 15: Morgan Dollars, Guide to Collecting and Investing Table of Contents