The 1879-s Reverse of 1878 Morgan Dollar

1879sPAF_rev.jpg
Reverse of 1878 (PAF: Parallel Arrow Feather)
  • 1.Flat Breast
  • 2.Parallel Arrow Feather
  • 3.Small mintmark
1879sSAF_rev.jpg
Reverse of 1879 (SAF: Slanted Arrow Feather)
  • 1.Rounded Breast
  • 2.Slanted Arrow Feather
  • 3.Large mintmark


In 1878, the Morgan silver dollar design was first minted at Philadelphia. After going through several major design changes, the mint settled on a design in which the eagle had rounded breast, and the top feather on the arrow is slanted. This basic design was used from 1878 to 1904. At the San Francisco Mint, working dies were shipped in from Philadelphia, and things moved a bit slower. While the mint in Philadelphia went on to mint 1878 Morgan dollars with the new reverse type, the San Francisco mint stayed with the flat breasted eagle design throughout 1878, and into 1879. Shortly thereafter, the San Francisco mint converted to using new dies with the rounded breast eagle in 1879, just as the Philadelphia mint had done in late 1878. However, a small number of coins with the flat breasted eagle had already been minted with the 1879 date. These coins are the focus of this web page. Collectively, they are known as the 1879s Reverse of 1878 Morgans, or 1879s PAF (Parallel Arrow Feathers).

According to NGC's population report, approximately 35,000 1879-s Morgan silver dollars has been certified in various grades to date. Of these coin, approximately 750 had the reverse of 1878. This ratio suggests that only roughly 2% of the Morgan dollars minted in 1879 at the San Francisco mint used the flat breast reverse die of 1878. Further analysis of the grades of the coins found in the NGC population report suggests that this ratio may be lower still. I am currently in possession of such coins with 15 different die combinations. There are 3 major variation, separated by the distinct state of the serif on the letter "r" in the motto "In God we trust". The latest VAM reference notes from Mr. Van Allen suggest that there are upwards of 21 unique 1879s Rev 1878 die combinations. Some of these die combinations are likely not to exist, and we are continuing the search for them. The 15 known VAM's in this series were re-verified by Mr. Van Allen after visual inspection of the coins involved. This process occurred in the spring of 2001, through a collaboration with Mr. Eubanks of Anaconda, Mt., Dr. Fey of RCI, and Mr. Cherry of Kansas. Through this collaboration, we were able to produce a reference guide for use by VAM enthusiasts in October 2001.


Complete serif in r. "Full r".




Partially broken serif in r.
  • 1879-S VAM-9: Doubled Closed 9, engraved wing, shares reverse die with 1878s VAM45
  • 1879-S VAM-35: Doubled Closed 9, engraved wing feather
  • 1879-S VAM-39: Closed 9, engraved wing feather
  • 1879-S VAM-42: Doubled 79, engraved wing feather
  • 1879-S VAM-77: Engraved Wing Feather from 1878 S, 9 Upper Tailfeathers
    1879-S VAM-77A
    : Parallel Arrow Feather, Engraved Wing Feather from 1878 S, 8 Upper Tailfeathers



More broken r, Almost TIUST.



Completely broken r, TIUST.





Fall 2002 Update for the 1879-S Reverse of 1878 Morgan Silver Dollars


2003 Update for the 1879-S Reverse of 1878 Morgan Silver Dollars


Spring 2004 Update for the 1879-S Reverse of 1878 Morgan Silver Dollars (Update #4)