VOL. XXIV, NO. 3
1900-O/CC Attribution Guide
A Study of die varieties and states
By C. Ash Harrison
I wrote to Leroy Van Allen to see if he had the history of O/CC dies used in the striking of Morgan dollars in 1900, and the following is a synopsis of the information he provided:
An article appeared in Coin World Collectors’ Clearinghouse March 18, 1964 titled “Taxay Backs Up Theory About O Over CC Dollar.” James Johnson, editor, had sent an example coin of 1900-O/CC to Don Taxay (who had written several books on minting subjects) and asked for an explanation if the O/CC really existed. The article states:
“Taxay verified the coin and backed up our theory indirectly by saying that when inspectors visited the Carson City Mint several years after it closed, they found the dies there and took them back toPhiladelphia. That would explain why the CC dies were available for use seven years after the Carson City Mint was finished.
“The closing of the Carson City Mint is documented in the book Mint Mark “CC” by Howard Hickson (1972) published by theNevadaStateMuseum. Page 73 states: ‘…even though theCarson City facility was legally a Mint, it had been a mere assay office with refinery facilities since 1893.’
“Page 75 states: ‘In 1899…the Mint $15,000 financing bill…passed and the Treasurer (and) Secretary quickly issued an edict stating the Mint would become an assay office on July 1.
“It is rather doubtful dies would have been removed before the Carson City Mint was officially closed in 1899.
“Page 97 states: “After the coining department closed in 1893, the machine (the #1 coin press) stood idle in the pressroom until it was dismantled and shipped to the Philadelphia Mint in 1899.”
The reasons for closing the Carson City Mint are summarized on page 29 in the Van Allen & Mallis book on silver dollars. It is a very interesting page, I might add. In summary, it was closed due to the fact that a significant number of gold ingots were coming back from the Melting Room lighter than the weights stamped on them. In all, $75,549.75 in gold was missing.
This was in 1895, and on April 18 refining was suspended. It remained that way until June 9, 1896. Then on July 1, 1899 the Mint was changed to an assay office only. Between then and mid-September, the three coining presses, remaining coin dies, and associated machinery were shipped to the Philadelphia Mint.
“Page 29 of VAM book also summarizes that only a small amount of silver dollars were struck at the Philadelphia Mint in 1899 because of a demand for subsidiary silver, and that the New Orleans Mint chiefly coined silver dollars that year. That would explain an unusually high demand forNew Orleansdies and the possibility thatCarson Citydies were recycled by punching O mint marks over them to help supply dies toNew Orleans.”
It appears obvious that 5 or 6 reverse dies made it toNew OrleansfromPhiladelphiafor coinage of 1900New Orleansdollars. The following pages will give you the tools necessary to distinguish between the different pairings of dies used.
Figure 1 is the mintmark for VAMs 7, 7A, 10, and 10A. The CC is positioned low and right in relation to the O, and the most prominent feature is the lower right remnant of the second C.
Note the shape of this remnant, and how the “hook” is slight and ends level with or just below the left side of the remnant. This is almost always a strong detail on this coin. (On VAM 11 the remnant can be misleading and mistaken for this one, so look closely at the right side remnant.)
Figure 2 is the 9 in the date of VAM 7. It is known as the “Closed 9” and one can really only discern it by knowing what the Open 9 looks like. The ball on the 9 doesn’t actually touch the upper part of the 9, so this can be misleading.
Figure 3 is a primary diagnostic for both VAM 7 and 7A. The doubling at the bottom of the first zero is only on these two varieties.
Figure 4 is probably the best die marker to distinguish VAMs 7 and 7A from VAM 10. It is often difficult to tell whether the coin has an open or closed 9 in the date, so this a great “cheat.”
Figure 5 is the mint mark on VAM 7A. It is the same as on VAM 7, as seen in Figure 3.
Figure 6 is doubling on the first zero of the date. This is also the same as on VAM 7.
Figure 7 shows the horizontal die scratch between the eagle’s neck and left wing (viewer’s right) on VAM 7A. It is also the same as on VAM 7. Both coins have the same reverse in essentially the same die stage.
Figure 8 is the primary diagnostic for VAM 7A. It is essentially the only difference between VAM 7 and 7A. Note the closed 9 and the heavy die pits on the top of the digit. If you see this diagnostic and you have already determined the coin is an O/CC, then it is a VAM 7A.
Figure 9 shows the mintmark for VAM 8, which is unique for this variety. Note that it is actually an O/O/CC, with the second O being visible at approximately 11 o’clock on the mintmark.
Here is the most important tip for identifying VAM 8: There is no extra metal blob at the 9-10 o’clock position of the first C, nor is there extra metal right above the D in DOLLAR. This will be explained further in pictures for VAMs 8A and 8B.
Figure 10 is a die scratch that emerges from the eagle’s left wing tip to the denticles. It is visible on almost any grade VAM 8, 8A, and 8B. It can be just a thin line or it can be almost a triangle of metal.
Figure 11 shows a die scratch under the eagles left (viewer’s right) claw. It is a decent market due to its protected position. It is visible on all my VAM 8A coins, but not on my VAM 8B. I would not use this as a marker to separate VAMS 8, 8A, and 8B from each other, only to separate them from other O/CC varieties.
Figure 12 is a die scratch in the base of the T inLIBERTY that should be visible on almost all VAMs 8, 8A, and 8B. This will at least allow you to put the coin into this group of VAMs if the reverse is particularly heavily worn.
Figure 13 shows the numerous pitting/rust marks that are the primary diagnostics for VAM 8A. They are evident on all VAM 8A and 8B coins, and will leave you only needing to search for strong clash marks to determine if it is a VAM 8B.
In addition to the two large pitting/rust marks above the D in DOLLAR and just to the left of the mintmark, you can see that there are numerous other pitting/rust marks scattered around the mintmark. A well preserved VAM 8A has a pretty amazing group of markers in this area.
Figures 14 and 15 show how the die scratch from the eagle’s left wing tip to the denticles on VAM 8A can differ from coin to coin. But nevertheless, it is there, even on the coin on the left that is in only Fine condition.
If you have identified the numerous pitting/rust marks around the O/CC mintmarks previously shown in Figure 13, it means your coin is either a VAM 8A or 8B. You now need to search for strong clash marks to determine if it is a VAM 8B.
Figures 16 and 17 show the area next to the eagle’s neck, and are fairly important diagnostics. Notice that the die polish in Figure 16 (a VAM 8B coin) is significantly less than in Figure 17 (a VAM 8 coin). All VAM 8 and 8A coins have significantly more die polish in this area than VAM 8B.
Figure 18 shows the clashing on a VAM 8B that extends from the eagle’s right (viewer’s left) wing.
Figure 19 is the most important die marker for VAM 8B; it is what defines this particular VAM. The die clashing in the neck shows the N from IN.
Figure 20 is an additional significant clashing at the back ofLiberty’s head on VAM 8B.
On VAM 9 it is VERY important to look closely at the remnants of the CC mintmark. This VAM is easy to mistake for VAM 11, and even sometimes VAM 12.
Figure 21 shows how the primary over-mintmark remnant at 4 o’clock is detached from the O. Also note the extra metal between 11 o’clock and 12 o’clock. These are very important. On the VAM 8 group the metal emerges from the O. On VAM 11 it emerges from the O. On VAM 12 it emerges from the O. On VAMs 7, 7A, 10, and 10A, the metal just barely touches the O, but extends much further into the field.
Figure 22 shows a “bump” of extra metal behind one of the arrowheads on VAM 9. This can be helpful in determining the variety on some examples.
Figure 23 shows a die scratch in the eagle’s lower tail, just above the arrows, that will help determine the VAM 9 variety.
Figure 24 shows the nicely doubled zeros at the top inside of the openings. VAM 9 is the only variety in the O/CC series that has this feature.
Figure 25 is the VAM 10 mintmark. It is the same as on the VAMs 7, 7A, and 10A. (See descriptions on preceding pages for those coins.)
Figure 26 shows the small die scratch next to the eagle’s neck, which is also found on VAMs 7, 7A, and 10A.
Figure 27 is a die gouge between the U and S in TRUST that is found on VAMs 10 and 10A. This is an important market, because it is one of the only distinguishable differences between the reverse on VAMs 10 and 10A, and VAMs 7 and 7A. There may be some very light evidence of this marker on VAMs 7 and 7A, but it is nowhere near this prominent.
Figure 28 shows the “Open” 9. While this is often used as a primary diagnostic for VAM 10, there are possibly easier ways to distinguish this variety.
Figure 29 is the 19 in the date of the VAM 10A. There is a small piece of raised metal inside the loop of the 9 as shown by the arrow.
Figure 30 is of theLIBERTY on the VAM 10 and 10A. This is identical for both varieties and WILL help in separating these two varieties from the VAM 7 and 7A. Note the strong die scratches in the E.
Figure 31 is the key diagnostic in determining the VAM 10A. This is the only diagnostic that will separate it from the VAM 10 and will essentially be only the visibility of the I from IN clashed to the obverse. (Note: There is a clash on the normal VAM 10 as well, but it is more intense on 10A. Evidence of this I will likely be the sole factor in making the VAM 10A.)
Figure 32 is the mintmark on VAM 11, which is apparently the most common of all O/CC varieties. The remnant on the right side at 5 o’clock is shown here in a fairly weak strike. This is often seen with a “hook” (where the farthest right arrow is located) that is very strong. When the hook is strong, VAM 11 is a very easy variety to attribute. But when it is as seen here, it can look like several others. So, it’s best to learn the other markers for VAM 11 to be sure.
Figure 33 shows an area in the N of IN that normally does not have as many die scratches. It is not uncommon for the N to have a single die scratch, but this coin shows several deep gouges. This will identify it as VAM 11.
Figure 34 shows die scratches next to the eagle’s neck on VAM 11. This is consistent for both EDS and normal coins. These are very deep and obvious, and can be reliably used as a die marker for VAM 11.
Figure 35 is one of the best diagnostics for VAM 11. It is a die scratch between the wheat stalks and the I in PLURIBUS.
Figure 36 is the mintmark of VAM 12. This is the most prominent of all CC remnants. The two C’s are high. The top right remnant at 1 o’clock is normally very strong on this coin.
Note the very strong die scratch next to the bow, and the die polish lines above the mintmark. This is the quintessential VAM 12 “look.”
Figure 37 shows the easiest diagnostic for determining the VAM 12. This strong die scratch is deep enough to hold up even on Very Good to Good coins.
Figure 38 is a decent die scratch on the VAM 12 in the upper part of the I inLIBERTY. It is helpful in determining the variety as long as the coin is not full of dirt.
Figure 39 shows a feature on VAM 12 that is common, and more importantly is common for several other O/CC varieties. Do not let this be a primary diagnostic, as there are multiple coins with this feature. It can, however, be used as a second or third check to verify the VAM.