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The Amazing Scarface Progression – 1888-O VAM 1B

NSDR Journal

Vol. XXVI, NO. 1

Spring 2008


The Amazing Scarface Progression – 1888-O VAM 1B

By Ash Harrison

President, Society of Silver Dollar Collectors


The 1888-O Morgan Dollar has an absolutely stunning group of varieties in the mix of coins that make up the popular surviving coins today.  In the group is the Hot Lips VAM 4, the Clashed E/Die Break Obverse VAM 1A, the Doubled Die Reverse/Date in Denticles VAM 9, the Doubled Die Reverse O/O VAM 15, all of the Oval O varieties, and the amazing Scarface VAM 1B.  These are coins that are in the Top 100 and Hot 50 VAMs.  That is a very interesting list of varieties for one date and mintmark.

But the Scarface has a really neat feature – it started as a clashed die, and a tiny little crack emerged from the rim on the obverse at the dot between E and PLURIBUS.  It then began to grow.  And it grew, and grew, and grew.  Finally it made it all the way into the face of lady Liberty.  By the time the die was noticed, the crack had made it into the hair beyond the neck.  That is an AMAZING feat!!!!

The Scarface was first listed in or around 1963 in Francis Klaes book entitled Die Varieties of Morgan Silver Dollars.  This was probably not long after the coins were actually introduced into “circulation.”  It is accepted that most, if not all Scarface coins were from a couple bags released in the Treasury hoard in the late 50’s and early 60’s.  I have personally seen a bag that contained somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 very Early Die Stage Scarface coins.  The fact that there were many coins that were in the Early Die Stage indicates that the crack developed over thousands of coins, not hundreds.  At least for the EDS coins, it does.  Once the crack got large, it likely progressed faster.

This progression of the crack in this variety is the subject of this monograph.  We will study them from “stem to stern.”  The convention used in this paper is that if there is a measurable and visible development in the progress of the crack, it is assigned a new stage.  I was able to assign 10 discernable stages and they are named H1 through H10.  I’m sure that as time goes by, someone will probably start calling a coin an EDS or LDS of one of the stages, but for now, let’s stick with finite numbers.  Below is a table of the stages, with annotations on the most important pickup points for the specific die stage.  If the coin you are attributing has more than what you see, go to the next stage.

I am very hopeful that this guide will be used by ANACS, PCGS, NGC, SEGS and others.  I am more than willing to give additional photographs and information to clarify.

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