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Top 10 of the Top 100 – Part 7

NSDR Journal

VOL. XXV, No. 1

Spring 2007


Top 10 of the Top 100

By Michael S. Fey, Ph.D.

Part 7 of 10


The is the seventh installment of a 10-part series

to present the Top 10 of the Top 100 Morgan dollar varieties.


The seventh example of the Top 10 of the Top 100 that we will consider is a class of variety that I have labeled Major Die Breaks/Die Gouges.

Perhaps the most well known “classic” Redbook variety example is the 1890 CC VAM 4 “Tailbar.”  A prominent die gouge can easily be seen between the wreath and the arrow feathers on the reverse (Photo 1).

Almost uncirculated (AU) examples of this variety have been trading at nearly $1000, while Mint State 63 trades have been recorded at over $6000 in auction.

There are many great other varieties listed in the Top 100 to choose from, but the single variety that  captured the imagination of all Morgan dollar variety collectors as well as many non-variety collectors is the 1888 O VAM 1B “Scarface Liberty” variety (Photo 2).

This eyeball noticeable variety has a huge die break extending from the rim all the way down through Ms. Liberty’s cheek and into her neck.  Collectors have been lining up to acquire one, and every time they trade, they trade up.  Don’t expect to find this variety in circulated grades.  It is most often seen in Mint State, likely as a result of a small number of specimens bagged at the end of a production run from a die that was breaking apart.

The 1888 O VAM 1B “Scarface Liberty” is rare in Mint State with only a few dozen specimens certified by all grading services.  This spectacular variety can still be purchased for about $3,000-$5,000 in MS 60 to MS 62, but an MS 63 will likely run in excess of $6500.

Also popular and worthy of mention is the 1891 VAM 2A Doubled Ear/Mustache Variety.

Some time late in its production run, an unusual die break occurred under Ms. Liberty’s nose.  This die break resembles a mustache, which is likely how this variety got its name many years ago.

These too are quite rare as terminal die states, but unlike the prior two varieties, the 1891 VAM 2A is rarely found in Mint State.

An extremely fine (EF) specimen will likely trade in excess of $650, whereas a single Mint State example traded years ago at $2500.  If this coin came to auction today, it would likely trade for a new record high.

In the next issue, we will explore the eighth of the Top 10 of the Top 100, Micro “o” mintmarks.


Knowledge is King!

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