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Top 10 of the Top 100 – Part 10

NSDR Journal


Spring 2005


Top 10 of the Top 100

By Michael S. Fey, Ph.D.

Part 1 of 10


This is the first installment of a 10-part series to present

The Top 10 of the Top 100 Morgan dollar varieties.


In most of the 20th century U.S. coins series, the rarer, more desirable varieties tend to command higher price premiums than the key dates to the series.  Some examples include the 1922 “no D” Lincoln cent, the 1916 doubled die obverse Buffalo nickel, the 1918/7 D Liberty Standing quarter, and the 1961 Proof doubled die reverse Franklin half dollar.  Why?  Because these neat and interesting die varieties are often much rarer in all grades than the key dates, and they are in high demand from collectors.

The first Top 10 of the Top 100 that I would like to present is the 1878 8TF ultra rarities.  Ultra Rarity is a name attached to the rarest of the 8TF Morgan dollar varieties.  These generally include varieties listed in the 4th edition Van Allen/Mallis (VAM) Comprehensive Catalog & Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars from VAMs 14.5 to VAM 14.9, but have been expanded by new discoveries to VAMs 14.5 to VAM 14.20 (21 varieties).

Information to identify these varieties is given in Mike Fey’s 1878 8TF Viewfinder ($14.95), and Jeff Oxman’s 1878 8TF Morgan Dollars Attribution System ($24.95).

Prices for the various 1878 8TF ultra rarities range from about $500 in Extremely Fine to $6500, with the highest prices realized for the recently discovered VAMs 14.17 to 14.20.

The single Top 100 1878 8TF, ultra rarity that has captured the imagination of advanced Morgan dollar collectors is the 1878 8TF VAM 14.11  This coin replaced the VAM 11 in the Top 100, when it was determined that the VAM 11 likely did not exist.

The variety has been called “Wild Eye Spikes” due to two eye spikes extending at different angles from Ms. Liberty’s eyeball on the obverse.  It has an Ac reverse with one small engraved pin feather extending from the “armpit” of the Eagle’s left wing (viewer’s right), and three from the Eagle’s left “armpit.”

The 1878 8TF VAM 14.11 is a key to the Top 100 set and the 1878 8TF set, and is in high demand by advanced Morgan dollar collectors.  A very fine specimen will trade in the $2000-$4000 range.

There are less than a dozen specimens currently known in all grades, only a few known in Mint State.

Should you encounter a specimen, please have it certified by one of the grading services, and contact me at

In the next issue, we will explore the second of the Top 10 of the Top 100, the best of the 1878 7/8 Tailfeather varieties, one often called the “King” of Morgan Dollar varieties.


Knowledge is King!

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