April 2015 - Welcome


The purpose and intent of our web site is to explore the breadth and depth of a single coin issue.  Our presentation is here to increase both knowledge and understanding of the 1881 Morgan Dollar minted in New Orleans.  You need to think of the site as an electronic book where revisions are being constantly made to the content as new information is learned and verified.


To understand any United States coin in depth it must be viewed through the lens of history.  There are always historical factors that influence both interest and rarity of an issue.  The 1881-O Morgan Dollar is no exception.


Unlike other web sites that seek to "cover the water" on all coins, or all Morgan Dollars, or VAM aspects of Morgan Dollars.  We have a laser focus on just one coin.  In this way we can explore the depth of the issue without the "noise" associated with other approaches.


Inevitably the question of "Why do all this?" arises and the answer is not simple.  For years we have collected Morgan Dollars and have been frustrated by the difficulty of comparing grades, VAMs, and other coin attributes.  It finally dawned on us that the transitory nature of most coin discussions left much in question because you never saw the whole picture at once.  Specifically  there was no one place where there was consistency in photography, grading, and VAM identification for a single coin date/mint combination.


The collection presented here was accumulated specifically for this project.  It has not been easy or inexpensive, but it has been worth it for our own education, and hopefully to advance the world of Morgan Dollar collecting.


Why Only PCGS Coins

There are two reasons for using just PCGS graded coins.  First, from a practical standpoint we cannot do it all, and our collection started with and remains only PCGS coins.


Second, by using just PCGS coins we remove from the discussion all the noise about who grades the best or toughest.  By sticking to one service we can focus on just grading in that sphere of influence.  And as you will see you can visually compare coins of different grades and begin to understand just what PCGS looks for in each grade.


Practical Note

For every PCGS graded coin type there is an optimal grade to collect.  This point can be easily identified if you look at their population report for the peak volume MS grade.  For the 1881-O this is Mint State 62 and 63.


These are excellent, affordable coins with easily identified features.  Above grade MS-63 you start to pay a real premium for the coins, and below Mint State you may have problems identifying VAM characteristics.


Even limiting the analysis and discussion to a single coin makes the discussion so complex that a complete analysis is a daunting task.

What We Are Not!

VAMworld does a great job of hosting discussions on a multitude of topics related to Morgan Dollars and associated VAMs.  They are also a central clearing house for control of VAM identification numbers.


We are not a blog, nor a replacement for any part of VAMworld.  This is a private collection presented in great detail to help collectors who probably spend much more time on VAMworld than we do.


As reiterated several times here, our goal is to enhance the knowledge of 1881-O VAMs and to encourage the hobby of Morgan Dollar VAM collecting.

Site Organization

There is information here for both novice and experienced collectors.  To explore the 1881-O we have organized the web site into three categories: history, coin facts or educational information, grading, and VAMs.


But the bulk of the value here is in the section on OUR COLLECTION where we give the identified VAMs and the details of every 1881-O coin we have collected.  Here there is a detailed discussion of each of the coins we have collected, and you can access every coin by grade or VAM.


Another feature of this site is that coins are grouped by grade and VAM on the VAM pages, so you can see high resolution photographs of every coin identified as that VAM and what it looks like as it wears.


Coin Facts

Within the coin facts and educational information there is data to help readers understand what was happening in the United States in 1881 and how it affected the U. S. Mint.  There is also information about Morgan Dollars and associated items like the New Orleans Mint, statistics about the coin, mint marks, how coins are made, and clashing.


We do not try to do a real time update of all statistical data.  Instead we take snapshots of information on a predictable timetable.  From this data we present information that will aid in your understanding of trends and scope of the 1881-O market.


VAM Data

Within the "Coins by VAM" section of the web site there is an explanation of every VAM recognized by VAMworld, together with an explanation of the associated characteristics.  Accompanying that information are real examples of each VAM for which we have been able to acquire a coin for our collection.  It is our goal to acquire an example of them all, but for now our collection is growing.


In the VAMs section there is a discussion of each die and its characteristics to become a recognized VAM.



Cross referenced with that information is our collection of coins by grade.  Our purpose here is to present multiple examples of all 1881-O PCGS graded coins.  This will give the reader an opportunity to learn from the pros and hopefully give multiple examples of each grade for comparison.  Coin grading is still part science and part art form, so having comparable coins is essential to learning.


Photography and VAM ID

Every coin on the web site has been photographed by VSS, so we have consistent, high-quality images.  When you compare a coin to its peers you know the same quality standards and conditions were applied to both.



For each coin there is an image resolution of 200, 500, and 2248 pixels.  These three provide adequate detail for analysis and make download times reasonable regardless of your Internet connection speed.  There is also a combined image of the front, back, and PCGS label that has a resolution of 1200 by 960 pixels.


VSS Expertise

We would be remiss if we did not give John Baumgart a big "thank you" for his skill at VAM identification and photography.  His skill continues to be  essential to validation of VAMs.


N Grade Coins

Even coins with no presentable grade have learning value.  If one grades a lot of coins with PCGS you will eventually submit coins that are not gradable for a number of reasons.  These coins can have VAM characteristics, and are included accordingly.


We have our share of these coins, especially in the lower grades where disqualification from grading is more likely.  It is definitely possible for PCGS to give a recognized VAM an N grade.


Coins on the Web Site

All of the coins on this web site are in our personal collection.  This helps us ensure that the information as to grade, die, and VAM are accurate.  We appreciate contacts where individuals want us to add their coin data, but we are committed to limiting our data to only coins in our collection.



All coins have been purchased as slabbed by PCGS, purchased raw and then graded by PCGS, or have been analyzed by the Variety Slabbing Service (VSS) and then graded by PCGS.  We continue to have coins requiring additional analysis and these may prove to be "discovery" coins."  When we have what we believe are discovery coins we ask for review by Leroy Van Allen so there is only one secondary source of opinion.  We know that others can add value and in time we might change our opinion about a coin's VAM, but this needs to be a tertiary discussion after experts lend their advice.


Collection Size

As of March 2015 we have roughly 310 1881-O coins.  Not all have been graded or analyzed for VAM characteristics.  Of those, 160 have already been analyzed by VSS and that data is on the site.  The remainder are being analyzed and will be added as they become available, hopefully during the summer of 2015.  On some pages you will see what are easily recognizable placeholders for coins in the process of being analyzed.


We have examples of all grades from Poor through Mint State 65.  If and when we can afford an example of the MS-66 we will add it to the group.  Where possible we have examples of plus grades, Mint State, Proof Like, and Deep Mirror Proof Like coins.  We will continue to acquire coins for the collection until we feel that we have properly covered the topic completely (or the money runs out), so who knows how many we will have.


There are two grades where we have only recently acquired.  Those are Good 08 and Fine 15.  In some cases there was a single example of that grade in existence, so acquiring one to grade has been difficult.  If you follow the PCGS population data you will see a significant up-tick in the number of 1881-O coins graded below the AU category.  In all likelihood this is us working to acquire examples.  The most difficult of all will of course be Poor-01 coins.


VAM Cross-referencing

With regard to VAMs we are also working to identify and own all of them, in multiple grades.  As of now we have many examples of the recognized VAMs for the 1881-O, and more are out for analysis.  We should be close to having examples of all known VAMs by late summer 2015.


All of the coins in our collection are cross-referenced by grade, die, and VAM, so comparison of all is straight forward. 
Where there are multiple examples of a coin they are presented in a way that review is easy.


We hope you enjoy the web site and find there is much to be learned about the 1881-O.  It is an interesting coin minted within a great historical context.  It is affordable, and there are enough VAM varieties to hold your interest for a long time.