New take on 1889 VAM 23A

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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by messydesk » Thu Oct 01, 2020 7:45 pm

vampicker wrote:
Thu Oct 01, 2020 3:07 pm
... I'm not 100% on board with the way Leroy described this as the first reported improperly hardened die. There are others including a clashed version in the 83-O VAM 1C2, but I'm not going to quibble over this point. It too is largely irrelevant to the appreciation of this progression
I agree with this. There are mint records showing 1881-O coins struck with a reverse die that was retired because it was too soft. Might be VAM 16. One nagging question remains for me as to where the PL field surrounding the clash came from.
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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by dave700x » Thu Oct 01, 2020 7:56 pm

Just think Chris, if I had bought that Morgan this may have never happened.... :lol: :o
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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by PacificWR » Fri Oct 02, 2020 2:30 am

Be patience the USPS only moves so fast.

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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by CascadeChris » Fri Oct 02, 2020 4:11 am

dave700x wrote:
Thu Oct 01, 2020 7:56 pm
Just think Chris, if I had bought that Morgan this may have never happened.... :lol: :o
Right! The VAM Gods sure do work in very mysterious ways dont they :lol:
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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by PacificWR » Sat Oct 03, 2020 1:54 am

Package will arrive on Monday. Will update then.

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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by PacificWR » Mon Oct 05, 2020 10:43 pm

Ok. Package has arrived. Grab a drink and buckle up this will take a while. Guess what year and mint from 1878-1904 produced the most Morgan Dollars? Answer: 1889 and it was the Philadelphia Mint. Mintage for that year was 21,726,000 and Mint records show 57 Obverse dies and 50 Reverse dies were used. When you do the math that equals an average of 381,158 coins struck with an Obverse die and 434,520 coins struck with a Reverse die. Monthly mintage totals were at least 1,350,000, with six months out of the year being 2,000,000 or more. Only in July of that year was the mintage below 1,000,000 and that was 800,000 which was due to the mint closing down for Fiscal year end. These stats are very important.

As I have already stated in this post, the Improper hardening of dies was nothing new. Back in 1878, the Mint Director was very concerned about this as a Philadelphia employee was specially trained in the hardening and tempering of dies and this employee was transferred to the San Francisco Mint.

In addition to the concern of improper hardening of dies, daily coinage records were required for each press. The records consisted of obverse die number, reverse die number and the amount of coinage struck for each. At the end of the month, a monthly report was prepared and sent to the Director of the Mint. This report contained the Obverse and Reverse die number, the amount of coinage struck for each Obverse/Reverse die, total number of Obverse/Reverse dies used and what the average number of coinage struck for Obverse/Reverse die. In addition to the monthly report, an annual report (Die Life and Usage Report) was sent to the Director of the Mint in January of the following year. The point I am making is that die usage was closely monitored at all the mints.

To be fair, over the years from 1878-1900, there were many complaints from the branch mints about the dies. In 1900 at the New Orleans Mint, the dies were failing so fast that they had a standing monthly order of 10 Morgan Dollar die pairs (this is a lot). Beside the failing dies, both the San Francisco and New Orleans branch mints (in 1900) proposed changes to the dies (cylinder & neck only). This was quickly shot down by Charles Barber. Time and time again, Charles Barber proved the problem was not with the die, but with the annealing process of the planchets. See photos 1-3 below and note what Charles Barber had to say about the steel in the dies (see page 2 ), and also note there is no mention of problems at the Philadelphia Mint. The problem at the New Orleans Mint was resolved when a gas furnace was installed, and the employees were properly trained. One must keep in mind the first gas furnace was installed in the New Orleans mint in 1900 and until then the furnaces were run by wood or coal.

********************************** Click the photo to view at full resolution. **************************************
Image Image
*********************************** Click the photo to view at full resolution. *********************************
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Shortly after I found my VAM-23A, one of the first things I did was look at the VAM listing for VAM-23. I thought it would be cool if it could acquire the complete set. However, when I got to VAM-23C I knew there was a problem. The LVA plate photo showed a clashed VAM-23C, but it did not have the damage to the neck. I knew right then that the die progression was wrong. Keep this in mind, because later on in this post I will come back to this. This really peaked my interest and I decided to do my own study. The first thing I did was determine the proper starting point and that would be VAM-23 not VAM-23A. Next, I set out to see how hard it would be to acquire a VAM-23 as this would give me an idea on the possible mintage. I quickly found out it was not hard at all. I purchased one from E-bay and found one at my local coin gallery. Based on the availability of VAM-23 I settled on a possible mintage of 170,000 coins. JR, JB and Chris if we stop right here and think about this for a moment if this figure is even close it shoots a fatal blow to the possibility of a soft die being used to create a VAM-23A. Next, I started to look for VAM-23B. No problem here as I have six of them. When looking at a clashed VAM-23B one notices right away that there were two severe clashing events which resulted in a chunk of the jaw missing and very impressive clashing around the lips. Turn the reverse over and all you see is the faint clash N to IN from VAM-23A (same reverse die). Something is wrong here unless you consider the reverse die was switched out before the severe clashing events. Your first thought might be what? This, however, was a common practice. One must keep in mind that each mint only had a set number of dies to work with. To help back this up, just look at the photo below of the 1900-S Die Life and usage report. The first thing that jumps out at you is that most time there is no direct correspondence or 1 to 1 of each obverse die and each reverse die. They change all the time.

1900-S Die Life and Usage Report

On my VAM-23A post on page number four, Andy added two links of photos, one for the 1889-P VAM-23B and one for what turned out to become an 1889-P VAM-7A. Andy’s photos are excellent and are second to none. After I looked at the photos, I made the comment that the photos just blew the door off the hinges. It truly did because JR, JB and Chris this is another point that you missed. There is a problem with the VAM-7A and VAM-7B listing. Each of you missed a very important die marker. What you missed is the die marker for the polishing lines in the lower cap. This die marker is the same as the one for VAM-60. In short, the VAM-7B is the same as VAM-60. They are duplications and have been since 2014. Click on the photo above to confirm this. The first set of links is a LVA attributed VAM-7B the second set of links is a LVA attributed VAM-7A. LVA will soon be receiving a package to bring this to his attention

1889-P VAM-7B Obverse

1889-P VAM-7B Reverse

1889-P VAM-7A Obverse

1889-P VAM-7A Reverse

Finally, when one considers all the facts (lack of die cracks and mintage) in the VAM-23 series, a soft die would not have survived the VAM-23 mintage of 170,000 (or more), let alone two severe clashing events on VAM-23A and two severe clashing events of VAM-23B (total of 4 severe clashing events). In short, JR’s, JB’s and Chris’s theory is not backed up with factional information.
Last edited by PacificWR on Thu Oct 08, 2020 11:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by 78-sLongnock » Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:05 pm

You must be happy that your Eagle is back, what did it grade? & was it attribute correctly since it’s a “minor”
Variety, Lol 😆

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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by vampicker » Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:24 pm

I'd be interested in pictures of what you have as a VAM 23
I accept that VAM 7B is the same thing as VAM 60. I don't think it's particularly relevant to the story though. It's a normal reverse that struck a bunch of dollars. It's the later stage VAM 60 that's the duplication and I'd defy anyone to say they could have spotted the tie in to the VAM 23A progression from the onset. VAM 60 needs to be killed.

As for the 'easy to find VAM 23, ANACS pop is zero. SSDC pop is 2 and the one piece imaged is clearly incorrectly attributed.

I can't follow what you're trying to claim caused the clearly evident crumbling on the VAM 23A/B obverse. Are you seriously trying to say it's a planchet issue?
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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by messydesk » Tue Oct 06, 2020 12:13 am

The availability of VAM 23 is unknown, so it's not possible to extrapolate mintage figures for that die pair. The reverse die was used with two different obverses, one of which endured severe life-shortening trauma that had little to no impact (pun not intended) on the reverse die. There is exactly one way this happens. The obverse was significantly softer than the reverse. Putting dies that are too soft into service has been documented before, in die usage reports where the reason for retiring a die was that it was too soft. In April-May 1881, the New Orleans mint shows 3 dies being "Used up. Too soft" that struck between 15,000 and 19,000 coins. This is a reasonable number for the VAM 23/23A/23B obverse die to have produced. Without die usage records, we don't know exactly, but I would bet that we would find something like this if such records surfaced.
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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by PacificWR » Tue Oct 06, 2020 1:29 am

78-sLongnock wrote:
Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:05 pm
You must be happy that your Eagle is back, what did it grade? & was it attribute correctly since it’s a “minor”
Variety, Lol 😆
It's not back. At least I have one! :lol:

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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by PacificWR » Tue Oct 06, 2020 1:48 am

vampicker wrote:
Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:24 pm
I'd be interested in pictures of what you have as a VAM 23
I accept that VAM 7B is the same thing as VAM 60. I don't think it's particularly relevant to the story though. It's a normal reverse that struck a bunch of dollars. It's the later stage VAM 60 that's the duplication and I'd defy anyone to say they could have spotted the tie in to the VAM 23A progression from the onset. VAM 60 needs to be killed.

As for the 'easy to find VAM 23, ANACS pop is zero. SSDC pop is 2 and the one piece imaged is clearly incorrectly attributed.

I can't follow what you're trying to claim caused the clearly evident crumbling on the VAM 23A/B obverse. Are you seriously trying to say it's a planchet issue?
I have another VAM-23 on the way. Just picked it up today. All are currently away from home base. However, none have any die cracks and or die stress.

If you have any doubt about the number of dies I can upload the actual mint record. You have to follow the facts. The facts do not support your theory. I have shown the facts that are available from mint records. If there was a soft die don't you think Charles Barber would have mentioned it in his 1900 report. The fact is he did not. Charles Barber was on top of the manufacturing of all dies. That is what I have proven here with the actual mint records. Stop and think about it for a minute. 21 and 3/4 million Morgan Dollars in a year with just 57 Obverse dies and 50 Reverse dies. Look at the monthly totals.

No way am I saying it was the manufacturing of planchet's. Maybe a problem with the coining press.

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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by PacificWR » Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:02 am

messydesk wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 12:13 am
The availability of VAM 23 is unknown, so it's not possible to extrapolate mintage figures for that die pair. The reverse die was used with two different obverses, one of which endured severe life-shortening trauma that had little to no impact (pun not intended) on the reverse die. There is exactly one way this happens. The obverse was significantly softer than the reverse. Putting dies that are too soft into service has been documented before, in die usage reports where the reason for retiring a die was that it was too soft. In April-May 1881, the New Orleans mint shows 3 dies being "Used up. Too soft" that struck between 15,000 and 19,000 coins. This is a reasonable number for the VAM 23/23A/23B obverse die to have produced. Without die usage records, we don't know exactly, but I would bet that we would find something like this if such records surfaced.
Yes it is. Look at the mint records. I can provide the total number of dies used from the actual mint records. Second, we are talking about the Philadelphia Mint here... the mint that trained the mint employees. Third, The Annual Die Life and Usage Report would prove it one way or the other. I have four months of 1889 Philadelphia Mint records to go though. Maybe I will find something. So far nothing.
Last edited by PacificWR on Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by messydesk » Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:34 am

PacificWR wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:02 am
Yes it is. Look at the mint records. I can provide the total number of dies used from the actual mint records. Second, we are talking about the Philadelphia Mint here... the mint that trained the mint employees.
That doesn't mean anything. All you can get without a die usage log is an average, and not all die pairs produced the average number. Also, I don't care what mint we're talking about, but no employee is/was infallible.
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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by PacificWR » Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:56 am

messydesk wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:34 am
PacificWR wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:02 am
Yes it is. Look at the mint records. I can provide the total number of dies used from the actual mint records. Second, we are talking about the Philadelphia Mint here... the mint that trained the mint employees.
That doesn't mean anything. All you can get without a die usage log is an average, and not all die pairs produced the average number. Also, I don't care what mint we're talking about, but no employee is/was infallible.
Mint records are the facts! You provide none. The Annual Die Life and Usage Report list every Obverse & Reverse die used and how many coins each produced. It will show it one way or the other.

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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by messydesk » Tue Oct 06, 2020 4:58 am

PacificWR wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:56 am
messydesk wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:34 am
PacificWR wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:02 am
Yes it is. Look at the mint records. I can provide the total number of dies used from the actual mint records. Second, we are talking about the Philadelphia Mint here... the mint that trained the mint employees.
That doesn't mean anything. All you can get without a die usage log is an average, and not all die pairs produced the average number. Also, I don't care what mint we're talking about, but no employee is/was infallible.
Mint records are the facts! You provide none. The Annual Die Life and Usage Report list every Obverse & Reverse die used and how many coins each produced. It will show it one way or the other.
And you haven't provided those. Until you do, the only thing we have to go on is the physical evidence, which shows a massive clash on the obverse with an unaffected reverse.
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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by PacificWR » Tue Oct 06, 2020 12:11 pm

messydesk wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 4:58 am
PacificWR wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:56 am
messydesk wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:34 am

That doesn't mean anything. All you can get without a die usage log is an average, and not all die pairs produced the average number. Also, I don't care what mint we're talking about, but no employee is/was infallible.
Mint records are the facts! You provide none. The Annual Die Life and Usage Report list every Obverse & Reverse die used and how many coins each produced. It will show it one way or the other.
And you haven't provided those. Until you do, the only thing we have to go on is the physical evidence, which shows a massive clash on the obverse with an unaffected reverse.
What do you think the letter from Charles Barber is? Charles Barber's letter talks about a soft die. He even gives examples of dies returned from both branch mints. They put both the SF & NO mint branch dies in their coining press and they worked just fine. Like I said before I can upload the total number of dies used at any time. All of the mint records I have provided here go against your theory.

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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by vampicker » Tue Oct 06, 2020 12:39 pm

I'll ask this question. Do any of Barber's letters on any die related subject indicate he ever made a mistake personally?
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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by vampicker » Mon Aug 08, 2022 2:29 pm

Bumping this thread as the arguing continues
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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by vampicker » Fri Aug 12, 2022 3:06 am

Back to this thread and Barber's letter. He states the problem that occurs periodically at the branch mints isn't that there's something wrong with the die steel. It is caused by improper hardening of the dies. He goes on to say he won't try to remedy this by written instruction, thinking it better to send one of his most senior workmen to instruct them in person.
In Barber's own words, improper hardening of dies was recognized as a problem and his best solution was to send his best guy in person This letter doesn't disprove my theory. It actually supports it.

Here's the story. For years after the VAM 23A was discovered, it was assumed the reverse seen on the coin was not from the die mated with the obverse clash episode because there were virtually no clash marks on the reverse.
The former VAM 7A (now 23B mid or late stage) was regarded as an interesting and somewhat similar variety - a poor man's 23A as it were. In 2019 Chris Simpson noted that the two obverses were likely different stages of the same die. Multiple examples of the several stages of what we now call VAM 23B were carried to the Baltimore show along with Pete Burchfield's VAM 23A for a side by side comparison to confirm or refute Simpson's theory. Not only were we able to confirm the obverse was the same die, it was also found that the reverse was the same die throughout all the stages of 23A/23B. It was a wild thing to be holding proof that the strongest clashed die in the entire Morgan series got polished up and put back into service with the same reverse die. Seeing the strong clashing of the mid stage 23B and noting it had no apparent effect on the reverse immediately lead to the question 'How did this happen? The obverse and reverse of the VAM 23B were clearly mated before and after the hard clash seen on mid and late stage examples. It also suggested that the obverse and reverse of VAM 23A were also mated during that episode. The dies tell a story of only one face being affected by a clash episode, which is pretty weird and up until that moment not anything I'd seen reference to. I left Baltimore with knowledge of a clear link between 23A and what would become 23B but unanswered questions about the reverse and how a one sided clash without a die swap could happen. Pete Burchfield sent multiple examples of the VAM 23B to Van Allen. For a brief period the polished version with no obverse clash but the front of the neck crushed away from the 23A stage was called 23B, the clashed and somewhat more crumbled stage was 23C and the late stage with the break at the point of the neck was 23D. But Leroy wanted to see a VAM 23A for additional confirmation.
At the Fun show in 2020, Burchfield returned with even more examples in the 23B sequence and loaned me his example of VAM 23A to hand carry up to Sidney for Van Allen to examine. I also arranged to borrow a clear example of VAM 7B (7B2 now) with the intent of proving it was unrelated to this story. I had no idea at the time what I would find when I got Coxe's specimen. Examining the coin revealed it was in fact a different and wholly unrelated obverse. But surprisingly the reverse was he same thing as the one used for 23A and 23B. Only now the reverse was clearly clashed with strength comparable to the obverse. Two obverse dies and one reverse die and throughout their progression they clashed with very different results relative to each other. I had a working theory based on other work I'd seen, Then COVID hit and there would be no trip to Sidney.
I had the various pieces in my possession for months including a VAM 23A that didn't belong to me. I had also seen Baumgart's presentation on 81-O varieties. John had included a die log noting one of the dies was retired for being too soft. Sure enough, there's a VAM that year that's notable for odd crumbling on the reverse - VAM 16. Note the similar texture of the fields in the crumbled areas on 23A/b and 81-O VAM 16. There are other listings with similar odd die failure including the 83-O VAM 1C progression. This one also has an apparent one sided clash. I know there's an obverse die swap involved, but neither obverse appears clashed. A marriage with an improperly hardened die is a plausible culprit behind the crumbled or overbuffed listings. When something like this also clashes, the results are spectacular.
That 89 VAM 7B I had also demonstrated that this wasn't a case of the reverse being particularly destructive. It's clashing is pretty standard. Eventually the lockdown lifted, and at the time I sent the various pieces to Van Allen it was a welcome diversion for him. I had intended to drive up and hand deliver the 23A when he was ready, but I had put multiple images of the piece on a flash drive and sent it in with the other coins. By this time the 23A had a new owner and he understandably wanted it back sooner than later. I presented my theory to Leroy in the letter I imaged earlier in this thread. He agreed. I wrote an About VAMs column about this and it was published in Coin World. At the Jan 2022 VAM Thing I presented my study and findings as a PowerPoint during our program. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. If I could attach the PowerPoint to this thread I would.
In the time since presenting this other points in the progression have come to light. I've looked at the images provided and in some cases other examples that have crossed my desk. They have note changed my conclusion. There was one improperly hardened die in this progression, and while it was present, two of the strongest clashes in the entire series occurred but only show on that functionally 'too soft' face. When swapped out, normal stuff happens and when these dies clash the result is fairly typical. Much of this work took place in cooperation with and in plain view of many members of this community.
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Re: New take on 1889 VAM 23A

Post by PacificWR » Fri Aug 12, 2022 9:12 pm

Oh my! Close the front door. I think you need to go back and reread Charles Barber’s letter. Start with page 2, right at the top. Charles Barber did not say the dies were soft. It was the branch Mints that said they were soft and what did Charles Barber do? He put one of the dies in question (1876 half dollar from San Francisco) in one of their own coin presses and guess what happen? It struck 264,000 pieces. Fast forward to 1888, The New Orleans mint was complaining about the Morgan Dollars dies and returned a pair. The complaint was the dies were cracking (die fatigue) at 75,000 pieces. Hum, think this is another example of what I have been talking about with the 1889-P VAM-23B mintage and die sequence #3 and #4 availability (easy to obtain). Moving on, what was the next thing Charles Barber did? Answer: He placed die pair #86 in one of their own coining presses and it struck 450,000 pieces and was still in good shape. There is not one word mentioned about hardening.

I can tell you what happens next when the man returns from his trip. I have all the mint records to prove it. I can add them to this post if you want.

Go to the other post to see and how they proved the soft die theory wrong.
Last edited by PacificWR on Sat Aug 13, 2022 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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