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Peace VAM Attribution 101
VAM Attribution 101 - Introduction to Peace VAMs
This page is meant to complement and mirror the
Morgan VAM Attribution 101
page. The Morgan VAM Attribution 101 page was prepared and developed by Bradley Graham (Sentry02) with contributions by others. We gratefully thank Bradley for the time and effort he put into the flagship Morgan page. It is a comprehensive introduction into the world of Morgan VAMs. This page uses the same format, outline and general topics developed by Bradley, except for the Peace Dollar series. Much of the content of this page uses work directly from the Morgan 101 page. This is to provide consistency between the pages for those interested in both Morgan and Peace dollar VAM attribution. Plus, we were just plain lazy to start from scratch!! Thanks Brad!!
You know I couldn't get through this without mentioning Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis for all their work to bring this hobby together, and their landmark publications. There were folks and publications that preceded them, but Leroy's and George's names are invariably tied to our hobby. Without their work, I wouldn't have this great past-time.
By coming to this web site, you've already taken the first step in what can be a very addictive hobby. Collecting die varieties, also known as VAMs, is a popular addition for Morgan and Peace dollar enthusiasts. This page is not intended to be an introduction to the minting process or VAM definitions. For more information on the definition of a VAM, go
. For more information on the minting process, please read Chapter 3 in the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis.
As a side note, the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars is something that everyone in the hobby should strongly consider purchasing. It provides information about the industry and VAMs that is unrivaled anywhere else and is an invaluable resource.
Since you're here, you may be wondering....now what? What do I do? How do I read all of these pages? How do I know if I have something worth noting or just noise that looks cool? It is the intent of this page to act as a living document to provide these answers and hopefully more. That way you can begin to identify VAMs in your own collection, grow your knowledge, and pass along things that you have learned
The following topics will be covered in this introduction to Peace VAMs:
Knowing Your Way Around the Peace Dollar
Understanding Major Hub Types
Reading the VAM Pages
Date and Date Digits
Mint Mark Sizes and Positioning
Machine Doubling and Doubled Dies
Die Cracks and Die Breaks
Die Scratches, Die Gouges and Die File Lines
Die Life and Common Attribution Mistakes
Knowing Your Way Around the Peace Dollar
Before we get started with this introduction, there are several areas of the Peace dollar that you should be familiar with. The areas identified are the most common areas that you will refer to on this site when researching VAMs or providing information for individuals who are trying to help you attribute something. The areas listed are not the only areas of interest, just the most commonly used.
Obverse areas of interest:
Note that the "Tiara" is actually made up of the tiara band, rays and hair band as shown in the following photo. This term is generically used in many VAM descriptions, and can refer to multiple features of the design as noted.
Note that on the Obverse, many VAMs are concentrated on doubled Motto letters, doubled Designer's initials, doubled rays above the Tiara, and a doubled Liberty profile.
Reverse areas of interest:
Note that on the Reverse, many VAM attribution points are with the mint mark position, doubled olive branch stems and leaves, rays above Eagle's left wing and tail feathers, as well as the rays below Eagle's tail feathers.
Understanding Major Hub Types
Understanding hub types, or Designs, is critical as a starting point to attribute VAMs for several dates of the Peace Dollars. One of the more widely "glossed-over" topics for beginners in VAMs is the major hub types and hub sub-varieties. Being able to understand and identify the Design differences, and Design Combinations will go a long way in helping you comprehend the individual VAM pages and will help you attribute coins more quickly.
Simply put, there are 3 obverse hub types and 3 reverse hub types for Peace dollars. The following table lists the major hub type designs and date/mints, referenced in Chapter 12 of the
Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars
some 1922-P, D, S
some 1922-P, D, S; all 1923 to 1928
all 1934, 1935-P and some 1935-S
Obverse hub types use Roman numerals and reverse hub types use capital letters. Superscripts after Roman numerals or capital letters indicate minor design type. Unlike Morgan dollars, Peace dollars have only one minor design type.
So what does all of this mean? Each major hub design or minor design type has key characteristics that distinguish it from any of the other hub designs. The basic obverse design differences are listed in the following table (there are other differences, only the most obvious and ones used for basic pick-up are listed):
Hub Type ID
Differs from later designs with thicker numbers and letters, only one line in head band, and first three short rays missing on left
"Base" design type.
IN GOD WE TRUST lettering thinner than OBV II, and straight tail on R in TRUST.
The basic reverse design differences are listed in the following table:
Hub Type ID
Differs from Base design with only two peaks in mountain ranges, four rays below ONE instead of three, and eight rays below Eagle's tail feathers instead of six.
Two peaks in mountain range, three rays below ONE, and six rays below Eagle's tail feathers. Olive branch detached from Eagle's foot.
Base design type. Three peaks in mountain range, three rays below ONE, and six rays below Eagle's tail feathers. Olive branch connected to Eagle's foot
Differs from Base design with a fourth ray below ONE, and added seventh ray below Eagle's tail..
Hub design detail information is © Leroy Van Allen.
There are additional photos of the B1 and B2 reverses on the VAM pages. Go to the following links
Obverse I: Note single line in hair band.
Obverse II: Note double line in hair band.
Obverse III: Note thinner letters in IN GOD WE TRUST, and straight tail to R in TRUST.
Reverse A: Two mountain peaks, four rays below ONE, and 8 rays below Eagle's tail.
Reverse B1: Note two mountain peaks, 3 rays below ONE, 6 rays below Eagle's tail, and detached olive branch.
Reverse B2: 3 mountain peaks and attached olive branch.
Reverse C: Note 4th ray below ONE and 7 rays below Eagle's tail. Seventh added ray highlighted by arrows.
For more information on hub design differences, please refer to Chapter 12, in the
Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars.
Reading the VAM Pages
Hub types are important because when a VAM is identified, the obverse and reverse hub varieties are listed in the VAM description. Understanding hub types and how to read the VAM description is important to attributing VAMs.
The example used is a VAM listed under the 1923-P date and mintmark. The header description states that this VAM has a "Doubled Tiara". The heading for this variety for the listing is as follows.
1923-P VAM-2 Doubled Rays
2 II-2 - B2a (Doubled Rays) I-3 R-4
The following table illustrates how the sub-heading is broken down:
VAM ID #, thus this is a VAM-2.
Obverse hub type (II) . This hub was used on some 1922 P,D, S, some 1922 proofs, and all 1923 to 1928 coins.
Identification number for a specific die. This number identifies the order in which it was listed by Van Allen and Mallis, not necessarily the order used by the mint to produce the coins minted for this year.
Reverse hub type (B) with minor hub design type (2). These are included so that the collector knows what principal design features are on the coin.
Identification letter for a specific die. This number identifies the order in which it was listed by Van Allen and Mallis, not necessarily the order used by the mint to produce the coins minted for this year.
Brief description of the key VAM characteristics.
. The interest level identifies how much "interest" or demand there is for a given VAM.
I-1 = Normal die variety with little interest to variety collectors.
I-2 = Minor die variety with some interest to variety collectors.
I-3 = Significant die variety with general interest to variety collectors.
I-4 = Major die variety with universal interest to variety collectors.
I-5 = Outstanding die variety with prime interest to variety collectors.
. The rarity scale identifies how likely you are to encounter the listed VAM "in the wild".
R-1 = Common (Tens of Millions)
R-2 = Not so Common (Several Million)
R-3 = Scarce (Hundreds of Thousands)
R-4 = Very Scarce (Tens of Thousands)
R-5 = Rare (Several Thousand)
R-6 = Very Rare (Several Hundred)
R-7 = Extremely Rare (Few Tens)
R-8 = Unique or Nearly Unique (Several)
One note of caution: do not rely solely on the Interest and Rarity numbers. They are meant to be a guide and are not 100% accurate in estimating either interest from the public or the rarity of the VAM (although they are certainly better than nothing). In other words, don't just buy it because it's an R-5. Likewise, the population reports from the Third Party Graders (TPG) are to be used as a guide for populations of given VAMs, but are not 100% accurate. Several of the TPGs only encapsulate a sub-set of the known VAMs and thus would not be able to reflect any information about those coins that they do not cover. These population reports also do not take into account crack outs and resubmissions.
It is worth making one important point about the way the VAM pages are listed. In some cases, you will come across a VAM page where there is no description for the obverse or reverse hub type. Do not look at the page thinking you are lost. When a page is shown without a description for something, it is normally due to the fact that the specific obverse or reverse die was already listed and described on a previous die variety combination and was not repeated in order to save space in the book. A quick search through a few of the earlier VAMs listed will very likely provide you with the description you are looking for.
Dates and Date Digits
Date digits were manually stamped into the dies at the Philadelphia Mint for Morgan silver dollars after 1884. Thus, the date in Morgan dollars can vary from die to die. The date position on Morgan's contributes to the vast number of VAMs in this series.
The dates on Peace dollars, however, were stamped into the Master Die. Thus, all production dies reflect the same date position on the Master. This removes variations in the date placement or position to attribute VAMs in the Peace Dollar series.
There were small variations in the actual date digits used for each year in the Peace dollar series. There are five different 1's and four different 2's used, but they are date specific. Date position and digits do not play a part in VAM attribution, and thus are not treated in this Attribution guide other than this brief mention.
For photos of the different date digits used, and the respective years in use, see "Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars", 4th Edition by Leroy C. Van Allen and A. George Mallis.
Mint Mark Sizes and Positioning
Peace dollars were only struck at two branch mints, San Francisco and Denver. All "S" mint marks are the micro "S" variety. All "D" mint marks are of the Micro "D" variety, except a Medium "D" was used for some 1934 VAMs.
The "Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars" contains a Mint Mark Position and Orientation Guide for Morgan Dollars. However, there is no such guide for Peace Dollars. Mint mark orientation is described as "tilted left or tilted right". Since no Guide is provided, attribution must be made by visual observation and comparison with VAM photos were possible.
Mint mark position is described with three adjectives: Normal, Medium High, and High. The only tool currently available to assist in attribution is a photograph array comparison of three 1926-S VAMs. This can be found on page 434 of the "Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars". This array is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced here.
Machine Doubling and Doubled Dies
One of the most difficult aspects of attributing Peace dollars is discerning the difference between machine doubling and doubled dies. Machine doubling occurs due to looseness in the press die holder, which caused the dies to shift or move during the strike. The result is a shelf-like appearance in features of the coin. Since the process is random, there is no consistency from coin to coin. As such, they do not qualify as a die feature or a VAM. On Morgan dollars, the reverse die was the hammer die, hence most machine doubling occurs on the reverse. For Peace dollars, the obverse die was the hammer die, hence most machine doubling on Peace dollars occurs on the obverse.
Doubled dies on the other hand are a result of minor misalignment in the multiple stage process of pressing the working dies from the master dies. Thus, the doubled feature resides on the die itself, and will show the same from coin to coin since the doubled features are transferred directly to the planchet. Doubled dies do get VAM designations.
Since machine doubling is random, it is difficult to develop a set of rules with which to identify it versus doubled dies, other than to say that machine doubling usually results in "shelf-like" impressions. One way to identify machine doubling is to recognize that it "borrows" metal from the primary image. Die doubling does not show this feature. The photo array shown below shows direct comparisons of doubled dies and machine doubling side-by-side.
Designer's Initials: doubled die on left, machine doubling on right.
Date: doubled die on left, machine doubling on right.
Tiara Rays: doubled die on left, machine doubling on right. There are two sets of pics.
TRVST and Hair: doubled die on left, machine doubling on right.
Motto and Neck: doubled die Motto on top, machine doubling of neck on bottom.
Finally, here are photos of doubled dies of other areas of the Peace dollar.
There is an excellent photo guide available for machine doubling of the 1922-P VAMs. Go to the following link for information
1922-P VAM-2 Machine Doubling
Die Breaks and Die Cracks
A die crack results at a point on the coin where enough stress occurred on that portion of the die to create a thin raised line that extends for an unspecified distance. Die cracks by themselves are not listable as new VAMs, but they can develop into die breaks, or be used for important die markers of key VAMs. The general characteristics of die cracks and die breaks that qualify for a VAM designation follow the same rules as for the Morgan Dollar series.
Peace Dollar die cracks generally occur in the following places:
-Through the bottom of Liberty's neck, sometimes extending into the field or letters, and occasionally making a circular pattern around the left hand side of the entire coin.
-Through the tiara, sometimes extending into the field or hair
-Through the top of the hair bun, generally extending vertically downwards
Although quite impressive, these cracks will/would not be listed.
(1922 VAM 1A die cracks) (1923 D VAM 1H circular die cracks)
-Through the top section of the eagle’s head, generally extending horizontally
-Through the lower neck of the eagle, also generally extending horizontally
-Through the legend
-In and around the mint mark
A die break is a gap in the die from chunks of metal breaking out, or when the die partially splits at the rim. Die chips (mini die breaks) are fairly common and not generally visible to the naked eye. These will not be listed, but can be useful as die markers. Die breaks must be visible to the naked eye in order to be listed. Furthermore, they must not be hidden in the rim. Die breaks in the Peace Dollar series generally occur towards the middle of the coin, extending outwards, as opposed to starting at the outer regions of the coin and going inwards.
There are three main types of breaks in the Peace Dollar Series; Cuds, Titled Field Breaks, and internal die breaks.
Cud: A die break that occurs on the edge of the coin, in which the break surrounds an outer portion of the coin, and a raised lump of metal forms in this enclosed area. There are two types of cuds.
Retained Cud: In this form, the cud is raised and a die break has formed, but the part of the die in which the break occurs is still partially connected to the die. Thus, all detail is not lost in the affected area. These pieces generally still display rim detail. This is seen in the two pictures below:
Full Cud: The piece of the faulty die has completely broken off the coin, creating a blank raised space on the edge of the coin. These pieces are generally more rare and desirable than their retained counterparts. A good example of a full cud in the Peace Dollar series would be the 1922 D VAM 2U, pictured below:
Cuds can be listed as new VAMs, regardless of whether they are retained or full. The only requirement dictating new cuds is that they reach past the rim and extend into the depressed area of the coin with (generally) no design elements, known as the “field”. Cuds are scarce to rare in the Peace Dollar series, as die breaks tend to occur in the center of the coin as opposed to the edges.
Tilted Field Breaks: a relatively uncommon die break for peace dollars that occurs on the edges of the coin in which part of the coin is “tilted”, or angled, differently than the other areas of the coin. These generally tend to appear incuse, which is why an angled portion of the coin occurs. This is seen in the 1923 VAM 1A2, and others pictured below:
Internal Die Breaks: These are the most common breaks in the Peace Dollar Series, and occur in the center of the coin instead of the rim. Internal die breaks occur when pieces of metal fall off the die, creating raised lumps of metal on the coins. These are generally the later die states of die cracks, or in rare occurrences, die clashing. Internal die breaks can be seen on the 1922 VAM 2A, and an internal die break resulting from clashing can be seen in the VAM 1923 VAM 1O (1-oh).
(1922 VAM 2A, Ear Ring)
(1923 VAM 1O, Barwing break at top of shoulder)
(1922 VAM 1F, Field break above DOLLAR)
(1923 VAM 1B, die break in hair)
This section is not intended to give an overview of clashed dies. For an overview of clashed dies, please refer to
page. The intent is to provide information about where to look for certain clashed elements, how to recognize areas on clashed coins, and which ones MAY indicate a particular VAM. Clashed dies were common for Peace Dollars. Just because a coin is clashed, does not necessarily mean that it is worthy of a VAM designation. There are several things that are helpful when looking at Peace dollars with die clashes. Before we look at some examples of clashed coins, it is important to have an idea of where to look for specific attributes.
The following images are designed to serve as visual references for where the more common specific clashed attributes occur on Peace dollars. However, since the dies can orient in different radial directions when clashing occurs, there are other areas that can show features of clashing. These common clash areas are color coded based on how frequently the areas are associated with identified VAMs. The color coding is as follows:
Frequently associated with VAM listings.
Moderately associated with VAM listings.
outline: Associated with only a few VAM listings.
Hardly associated with any VAM listings and may generally be ignored.
Having clash marks in the red zone does not mean that you should always ignore it and that you will never have any VAMs in this area. Likewise, clashing in the green area will not always produce a VAM. Generally speaking, clash spike marks above Eagle's right shoulder must be doubled or tripled to warrant a unique VAM. Single spike clashes above Eagle's right shoulder must reach the UN in order to warrant a VAM.
As with Morgan dollars, letter transfer warrants a VAM number if strong enough. Interestingly enough, as of 12/2008, there are only two letter transfers identified in the entire Peace Dollar series. These are the 1924-P VAM 1D and 1924-P VAM 1W. This area would seem ripe for new discoveries.
Obverse color coding of VAMs:
Reverse color coding of VAMs:
The following overlays of a Peace Dollar show how the obverse and reverse line up in a clash with normal die rotation. Keep in mind that dies are commonly rotated slightly, so clashed features may be in different locations.
You have no doubt noticed that the color coded images are also numbered. The following table will explain what each of the numbered areas references in relation to die clashing:
This area is associated with the clashing of the olive branches and leaves above Liberty's hair below the R in Liberty in certain die rotations.
This area is where you will find clash marks associated with a short vertical line between the rays to the right of the E in Liberty which is from the olive branches on the reverse.
A clash in this area will be an incuse line from the ray adjacent to Eagle's right shoulder.
Note that this clash may indicate a clashed "N" letter transfer!
This area shows an extra line extending down from Liberty's chin/neck junction to the top of the E in WE, which is an impression from the second ray down from the top of Eagle's left shoulder.
This is the counterpart or "sister" clash to Obv 4 clash. This area is associated with the clash of Liberty's neck extending above Eagles left shoulder between the second and third top rays. Many times there is a "V" clash from the junction of the neck and chin.
Note that this clash may also include a clashed E letter transfer!
This is the sister clash from Obv 1. This is the top of Liberty's hair below the R in Liberty, which typically extends out as a line from the olive leaves on the reverse.
This is the clash of the end of Liberty's head band above LL in DOLLAR, usually showing as a raised bump or curved vertical line.
A clash in this area is from the flowing hair above TRUST on the obverse, and usually shows as a short horizontal line extending out to the right of Eagle's right shoulder.
This area is associated with most clashed VAM designations. It is the back of Liberty's neck showing as a vertical line above Eagle's right shoulder. The line may be short, or extend up and into the UN of UNUM.
This area would show a clash from Liberty's forehead or bridge of nose.
Using the clash maps above, the following are photos of the various types of clash marks corresponding to the tags to show representative, common clash marks for the Peace dollars.
Obv-1: Clashing above Liberty's hair below the R.
Obv-2: Short vertical line from the Olive Branch on the Reverse. (This can also be seen in the Obv 1 photo above).
Obv-3: Single and Double Ray clash from Eagle's right shoulder.
Obv-4: Second ray from Eagle's left shoulder clash.
Rev-1: Liberty's neck clash (Sister to Obv-4 clash)
Rev-2: Top of Liberty's Hair extending out from Olive Branch (Sister clash to Obv-1)
Rev-3: Liberty hair curl clash in the vicinity of the LL in DOLLAR.
Rev-4: Hair clash from above TRUST on Obverse.
Rev-5: Spikes above Eagle's right shoulder.
Note that the Rev-5 clash is the one likely to hold the key to a VAM designation. The photo above is a single clash, and does not reach the UN in UNUM. Thus, it does not warrant a VAM designation.
The photo below shows a spike reaching the N and does get a VAM designation.
Finally, double or triple spike clashes also warrant a VAM designation. The 3 photos below show double clashes apart, close clash spikes, and very close clash spikes.
Remember, for spikes above Eagle's right shoulder, a single clash must reach the UN, or there must be double or triple spike clashes to be warrant a VAM designation.
There are only two letter transfers E & N known for the Peace Dollar series.
This area is ripe for new discoveries.
E on Reverse
N on obverse
Rev-6: Liberty's Forehead or Bridge of Nose Clash
Clashed die attribution guides are available for the 1922-P, 1922-S and 1923-S VAMs respectively at:
1922-P Clashed Die Attribution
1922-S Clashed Die Attribution
1923-S Clashed Die Attribution
Die Scratches, Die Gouges and Die File Lines
According to the "Guidelines for Things Listed as Die Varieties", scratches are defined as fairly thin and high lines, while gouges are wide and have high bars. Both scratches and gouges need to be long enough and bold enough to be visible to the naked eye. Minor scratches or gouges will not be listed. Although not specifically mentioned in the Guidelines, die file lines follow the same criteria. The die file lines need to be bold, deep and widespread to be listed.
The following photo shows a die scratch that is listable.
The following photo on the left is a die gouge that is listed. The photo on the right is die polishing that is unlistable.
The following two photos are die gouges that are listed.
Finally, the following two photos show die file lines that are listable.
Die Life and Common Attribution Mistakes
It is reported that Morgan dollar dies struck between 100,000 and 200,000 coins per die. Peace dollar dies, on the other hand, are reported to have struck about 500,000 coins per die. The design of the Peace dollar is more rounded with less detail than that of the Morgan dollar. This is because the Peace dollars were not touched-up during the design transfer process, as the Morgan dollar dies were. The sharpness of the Peace dies was also reduced due to the reducing lathe transfer process. Because of the initial reduced detail on the dies, and longer die life, attribution of the Peace dollars can be challenging.
Because of the extensive use of the dies, die fatigue can resemble doubled dies. The following two photos show die fatigue that could be mistaken for die doubling.
Die fatigue can also result in what is commonly called the "orange-peel" effect. This is caused by the planchet's spreading radially out from the center when struck. The resulting friction of the outward planchet flow can cause the die surface to "peel" away, or become worn. The following photo is an example of this effect.
Finally, rusted or pitted dies were relatively common for Morgan dies. They are not as common for Peace Dollars, but do occur. These can be attributed as VAMs. Rusted or pitted die VAMs can be found in the 1922, 1924 and 1925 dates. The 1922-Ps have the word "rusted" in the VAM Title. Some 1924-Ps have the word "pitted" in the VAM Title, but also are described as rusted dies in the VAM description. Shown below are examples of rusted Peace dies.
Common attribution mistakes and advice include the following:
1. Make sure you determine the Hub or design type for 1922 and 1934/35 date Peace dollars.
2. Try to understand the difference between machine doubling and die doubling. This is tough for the Peace dollars.
3. Understand the difference between die breaks and die cracks. Remember that die cracks can be spectacular in location and extent, but if there is not a shifted field, tilted field, displaced cud(s), or large die chips, then the feature likely isn't listable,
4. The most common spot to have a clashed die are spikes above Eagle's right shoulder. Remember that single spike clashes must reach the UN, or be doubled or tripled to be attributed.
5. Remember that die scratches and die gouges must be large, and long enough to be seen by the naked eye to be attributed. Die file lines must be deep, long and wide-spread to be listed.
6. Finally, understand the die state of your coin. If it has very weak features and devices, it will be even more difficult to attribute. This is common for Peace dollars.
Now, go out and find some VAMs!
I took this project on for several reasons. One was because of the great work Bradley Graham did on the Morgan 101 page, and I felt it needed a counterpart Peace 101 page. I also started a concerted effort to start learning about the Peace dollars, since it was obvious to me that it is a natural extension of Morgan Vamming. I have learned a lot by doing this.
That being said, I am not a Peace VAM expert, so I solicited help. This page would not exist in its current form without the help from
Ben (wengel1991) and Pat (peacevamjunckie).
I truly thank them for the energy provided to make this such a cool and informative page!!
Alan Scott (W1wscott)
Others that contributed in various ways are to be thanked, and include:
Those un-named folks who have supplied photos to this site which we scabbed and are included above.
YankeeBen for his review and comment.
John Roberts for his review and comment.
Raybob15239 for his review and comment.
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