Longstrider's Blog

21 Jul 2019


Coins-United States | Longstrider

I am going to be very honest here and tell everybody this blog is a DIRECT COPY from VAM World 2.0. The only reason I am doing this is because I get many messages from members here, asking me what a VAM really is. Now these people could just go to this site, I always source, to find out but they don’t. I wish I could give back any points but one can’t do that. So, here you go:


There are two answers to this question...the emotional and the cerebral. We'll start with the emotional answer - the one you need to hear:

What is a VAM? - EMOTIONAL answer

VAMs are special silver dollars. They captivate us. They inspire us. They beckon us. They are our pride and our weakness. We cannot get enough of them. We cannot tell people enough about them. They own us, and we don’t care.

Each of us remembers our “gateway VAM” and the story behind it. At one time, we VAMnuts were normal collectors. Then someone showed each of us a VAM. We thought that the VAM was interesting. We were enchanted by its rarity. Then we learned that we could cherry pick VAMs and possess something scarce, alluring, and beautiful which brings a joy that exponentially exceeds the costs. We thus became hooked.

So, here we are building a web site. We want to share our joy, or our sickness, with you. So dive in with us! Enjoy!

What is a VAM? - CEREBRAL answer

Silver dollars are created by striking metal blanks with hardened dies containing the mirror image of the desired pattern. Through careful study, slight differences can be used to identify specific dies that created the coins. Sometimes these differences occur during the creation of the dies, while other times they are caused by the maintenance or use of the dies.

Extensive research on the variations in the dies used to strike silver dollars was published 44 years ago by Leroy C. Van Allen and A. George Mallis. Their work centers on Morgan dollars that were minted by the United States Mint from 1878 through 1904 and the resumed again in 1921 and Peace Dollars issued from 1921 through 1935. The term VAM is an acronym for "Van Allen - Mallis."

The goal of the VAM system is to number and catalog every known die variety by date and mint mark. To this end, every Morgan dollar in existence is either already a VAM or should be a VAM. This is a continuous process, and new varieties are continually discovered and added to the list.

VAM-1 is always the normal die state for a specific date/mint and has no distinguishing characteristics. Die varieties that can be distinguished from each date/mint's VAM-1 are subsequently numbered incrementally (VAM-2, VAM-3, etc.) Sometimes a letter follows the number, i.e. VAM-1A. A "lettered" VAM represents a later stage of the numbered die that has a die gouge, major die crack, pitting, die clash, or any other result of a post-die-production occurence that can be shown to have changed the die. Like VAM numbers, letters are also assigned in a one-up fashion.

Keep in mind that VAM numbers for a specific date and mint mark are exclusive to that date and mint mark. There is no crossover. For example, an 1880-O VAM-2 does not have the same distinguishing characteristics as a 1882-S VAM-2. To know the die features that each VAM designation (number) shows, it is thus essential to have the appropriate reference books.

In 1996 Michael S. Fey, Ph.D. and Jeff Oxman published the Top 100 VAM Keys. This pocket reference book pinpointed the most highly sought Morgan dollar die varieties. The popularity of the book created a boom in interest in Morgan dollar die varieties that is still expanding today, eighteen years later. The VAM craze has fostered a concurrent increase in the discovery and cataloguing of new die varieties. In addition, new lists of desirable varieties (Hot 50 Morgans, Peace Dollar Top 50) and research manuals of specific dates/varieties (1878 eight tailfeathers, 1878 7/8 tailfeathers, 1921-D die breaks) have been created to satisfy the seemingly unquenchable thirst of VAM enthusiasts.

If you find this of any interest, please go to the listed web page. There is so much info that it's crazy.

Thanks for reading everybody. I hope this helps you. I just couldn’t think of a better way to do it.


VAMWorld 2.0---http://ec2-13-58-222-16.us-east-2.compute.amazonaws.com/wiki/Home



Level 5

Fantastic blog. This explains some things that I never knew. Honestly, until your blog, I wasn't aware of the designer's initials on the obverse. Thanks for sharing.


Level 6

This a a great blog Longstrider! Really gets down to the nitty-gritty of the Vam World! Loved it! Thanks ; )


Level 4

Thanks for a great, informative blog! Some day I will have a VAM for my collection, and I expect that more will probably follow that first one. :) Amazing pictures by the way!


Level 7

I have a better understanding of a VAM . That's for posting that information. Especially the pictures. It makes it easy to see. There is allot of info. I will give it another read. That helps. Thanks good blog.

It's Mokie

Level 6

VAMWORLD is an excellent resource and is so well organized that anyone can start searching for their very own VAM Morgan or Peace, I am only looking at Peace Dollars and only looking at Top 50s but there are hundreds of VAMS out there. I will find me one some day. (:


Level 5

When I re-imaged my GSA certified Morgan's the label listed the 1880-CC, VAM-7 without describing what VAM-7 meant. The first place I went to check was VAMWorld to see what it was. When I saw that is was a 1880/79 I went back and took the picture that I posted. I can't say enough about VAMWorld as the best VAM resource..

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