Unicorns Are Real!

General discussion board about VAMs, but no buy/sell offers
Post Reply
DHalladay
Posts: 2648
Joined: Wed May 30, 2018 4:38 pm
Location: Boise, ID area

Unicorns Are Real!

Post by DHalladay » Fri Feb 04, 2022 5:33 pm


A look at 1921-D VAMs 1N1, 1N2 and 1N3.


Legend, lore, myth and wish have fueled fantasies about unicorns for centuries. But one place they are real is Morgan dollar collecting – in the form of Hit List 40 1921-D VAMs 1N1, 1N2 and 1N3. Even those, however, are elusive.

Unicorns are named for the impressive horn-shaped cracks atop the D in UNITED that angle up and right into the denticles. The horn was formed after the cracks merged and eventually caused part of the die to break off, allowing metal from the planchet to fill in and create a raised chip in the shape of a horn.

A prodigious 20.345 million D-Mint Morgans were made in 1921, the 4th most in the entire series. It’s important to remember that they were made after, and thus protected from, the great Pittman Act melt of 1918 that destroyed hundreds of millions of earlier dated silver dollars stored in Treasury vaults. Even so, how often do you encounter any of the Unicorn varieties today?

Low certified population.


Certified populations show why it isn’t often. Below is a comparison with another popular 1921-D VAM – the 1A “TRU_T”. The three biggest grading companies have attributed one-third fewer Unicorns than the much more expensive Top 100 “TRU_T”:

1A vs 1N pops table.jpg
1A vs 1N pops table.jpg (47.98 KiB) Viewed 1823 times

The 3 different Unicorn varieties recognized today are defined by the completeness of their horns. The sequence begins with VAM 1N1 (rated R-6), which doesn’t have a horn at all; just the two cracks forming an outline of the horn that is yet to come.

1N1 Unicorn.jpg
1N1 Unicorn.jpg (184.9 KiB) Viewed 1823 times
above: VAM 1N1, the pre-Unicorn EDS form.


VAM 1N2 (R-6) has a completely raised horn and is the classic Unicorn die state that grading companies attribute. (Be aware that none of three largest TPGs attribute VAM 1N1 as VAM 1N1. I learned first-hand that if a 1N1 is submitted to PCGS for Unicorn attribution it will come back as a generic 1921-D.)

1N2 Unicorn.jpg
1N2 Unicorn.jpg (166.52 KiB) Viewed 1823 times
above: VAM 1N2. The horn is full, but the crack from the left side of the E has not continued across to reach the denticles above T, so a displaced field break over TED has not yet formed.



1N3 Unicorn.jpg
1N3 Unicorn.jpg (179.76 KiB) Viewed 1823 times
In VAM 1N3 (above) the crack from the left side of the E has widened and curved into the denticles above T to create a displaced field break (DFB). It is this late die state that ANACS and NGC attribute as VAM 1N3 (R-6/7). PCGS, however, does not distinguish between 1N2 and 1N3.

But 1N3 is not the end of the die state line for Unicorns. A spectacular, and so far only one-of-a-kind ultra-late die state 1N3 (below) is known in which the DFB has become a cud that blends into the tops of E and D and obscures the horn as a distinct feature.

1N3 VLDS.jpg
1N3 VLDS.jpg (90.35 KiB) Viewed 1823 times
above: This photo of the extremely late die state VAM 1N3 is from the VAMworld attribution page.


The entire Unicorn production life seems to have been short.

After taking macro-photographs of certified examples of all three Unicorn stages attributed by Variety Slabbing Service, I strongly believe that the horn cracks grew quickly and the number of coins made from the beginning of Unicorn progression to the end was small. My evidence is other, non-horn cracks I found on all three coins.

I started by hunting for cracks on both sides of the 1N3. Then I looked to see how many are also on the 1N1. To my surprise, I found all of them. Most were weaker and shorter on the 1N1, of course, but all were there. Thus, the coin production “distance” between 1N1 and 1N3 seems to have been quite short.

Populations and prices.

Population data for Unicorns is both suspicious and confusing. A breakdown of all three die stage populations exists only in the Society of Silver Dollar Collectors Registry census, where there are 36 1N1s, six 1N2s, and eleven 1N3s (non-details coins only). Frankly, the 1N1 and 1N2 totals make no sense at all. And I don’t trust the stated number of 1N3s. The best explanation I can think of are attribution errors by owners who aren’t aware that since 2016 there have been three different Unicorn die stage designations.

Grading company data inspires more confidence. ANACS shows 55 1N2s and nine 1N3s, while NGC shows 26 and one, respectively. The total Unicorn population at PCGS is 88, as seen in the population table near the beginning of this article. One takeaway from this data is that 1N3 seems to be much scarcer than the other two stages.

Given the general rarity and high popularity of Unicorns, their auction price records are also hard to make sense of. The three highest prices in the VAMview Index of Prices Realized are $775 for a PCGS-64 sold on eBay last December, $705 for an NGC-65 sold by Heritage in 2015, and $700 for a PCGS-65 sold privately in 2013. The next highest prices are $403 and $394 for PCGS-65s sold at Heritage in 2008 and on eBay in 2014. All five seem remarkably low for a VAM whose finest known is a single MS66.

Finding a Unicorn isn’t easy, but at least the Morgan dollar kind do exist. And you don’t need to visit a mist-shrouded forest during a full moon to find one – but you do have to be on careful lookout for that horn.
When in doubt... don't.

Geseas
Posts: 316
Joined: Sun Aug 11, 2019 2:49 am
Location: West Michigan

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by Geseas » Fri Feb 04, 2022 5:58 pm

Dennis

What you have done above is just off the chain.

morganman
Posts: 694
Joined: Fri Jun 29, 2018 4:02 am

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by morganman » Fri Feb 04, 2022 6:06 pm

:popcorn: fantastic- I had no clue like many
other neat vams
This is the neat part= When you
think you know something about
various vams/think again as only
a total sponge could keep up,which
really makes vamming super special
:|

User avatar
messydesk
Site Admin
Posts: 3238
Joined: Mon May 28, 2018 1:57 am

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by messydesk » Fri Feb 04, 2022 6:43 pm

Nice article, Dennis!
Welcome to the VAMWorld 2.0 discussion boards. R.I.P. old VAMWorld.

RogerRock
Posts: 567
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:40 am

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by RogerRock » Fri Feb 04, 2022 7:43 pm

Dennis - Thanks for your discussion/report on the 1921 D Morgan $ VAM 1N1 - 1N2 - 1N3 die stages.
May I suggest you request inclusion of this report under "Member Articles" ??

The nickname "Unicorn" provides an instantaneous reference. This variety is a premier die break in the 1921 D series of Morgan Dollars. Perhaps, one day, a true full blown cud will be found which envelops the denticles and tops of letters TED. I feel extremely fortunate to find that outrageous, exotic "Unicorn Chimaera" specimen that inspired me to write an article for VAMWorld.
Stage 3 TERMINAL DIE STATE SILVER DOLLAR EXPLORER

User avatar
vampicker
Posts: 1729
Joined: Fri Jun 01, 2018 1:48 pm
Location: Ohio

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by vampicker » Fri Feb 04, 2022 9:10 pm

It's worth noting the ANACS pop will never be up to date for the three stages. While I've certified each after they were split in the listings, most fall into a generic 1N listing in the pop. It's the same story for most of the many other listings that got split several times after the initial catalog entry
often the crusher of hopes and dreams

User avatar
vampicker
Posts: 1729
Joined: Fri Jun 01, 2018 1:48 pm
Location: Ohio

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by vampicker » Fri Feb 04, 2022 9:18 pm

And yes, unicorns are real. I've seen one in downtown Columbus
Attachments
unicorn columbus.jpg
unicorn columbus.jpg (152.78 KiB) Viewed 1761 times
often the crusher of hopes and dreams

Mediocrates007
Posts: 44
Joined: Mon Sep 20, 2021 8:19 pm

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by Mediocrates007 » Fri Feb 04, 2022 9:57 pm

Fantastic write-up! Thank you for making me appreciate my 1N2 even more!

User avatar
bjsilverfox
Posts: 136
Joined: Mon Jun 04, 2018 4:04 pm

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by bjsilverfox » Fri Feb 04, 2022 10:44 pm

Dennis, thanks for the great article. It jogged my memory, and I pulled this one out to take a picture. I think it has to be pretty close to the VLDS you pictured in your article.
Image711.jpg
Image711.jpg (104.03 KiB) Viewed 1736 times

RogerRock
Posts: 567
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:40 am

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by RogerRock » Fri Feb 04, 2022 10:51 pm

vampicker wrote:
Fri Feb 04, 2022 9:18 pm
And yes, unicorns are real. I've seen one in downtown Columbus
In fact, there is only one real life unicorn - Narwhal - unicorn of the Arctic Sea ! The spiral horn growing from this whale's head is a tusk formed from elongated teeth. The length of this horn (tusk) varies from a foot and a half to over eight feet. Size is more relative to the overall health of the individual male narwhal and natural selection favors these robust specimen.
Stage 3 TERMINAL DIE STATE SILVER DOLLAR EXPLORER

collectinsince65
Posts: 794
Joined: Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:55 am
Location: Florida

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by collectinsince65 » Fri Feb 04, 2022 10:54 pm

Awesome article Dennis!
I simply luv my PCGS 62 VSS 1N3 which I found in the wild
after reading Roger's post a couple of years back.
It is not included in any pop data

DHalladay
Posts: 2648
Joined: Wed May 30, 2018 4:38 pm
Location: Boise, ID area

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by DHalladay » Fri Feb 04, 2022 11:12 pm

bjsilverfox:
I agree with you. That looks incredibly close to Roger's "Chimaera" specimen!
When in doubt... don't.

User avatar
lioncutter
Posts: 272
Joined: Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:28 pm
Location: Lexington, Kentucky

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by lioncutter » Fri Feb 04, 2022 11:48 pm

Really enjoyed the read Dennis.
My discovery 1N3 is in a NGC XF 40 and is attributed as a VAM 1N on holder. It is a VLDS. I also own one in a ICG MS 62 not attributed and is a 1N3 but not a VLDS. The other part of this VAM is the obverse with many cracks and a displaced field break below the date which can determine if you have a 1N3.
I may not be the best, but I do not know anyone better.

Mhomei
Posts: 672
Joined: Mon May 28, 2018 7:23 pm
Location: New Jersey

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by Mhomei » Sat Feb 05, 2022 8:33 am

great job Dennis

User avatar
SilverToken
Posts: 83
Joined: Fri May 14, 2021 2:17 pm

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by SilverToken » Sat Feb 05, 2022 1:52 pm

Articulate, informative, and intriguing. Exactly the type of article that brings interest and life into coin collecting. This is the affordable fun of the quest, the value is a nice by-product.

Great starter article to resurrect Vam-e... quarterly?

Said it before, Dennis- you are a Machine!
When it's no longer fun, I think I'm done!

JackBnimble01
Posts: 249
Joined: Wed Jul 24, 2019 4:34 pm

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by JackBnimble01 » Sat Feb 05, 2022 2:27 pm

Dennis,

Great article very informative, as
A newer VAM world member, I’m
Always looking for new information.

Maybe you should think of submitting this article To the grey sheet, they
Are asking for story’s from
The public.

Maybe it could bring some new members
To VAM world and the Morgan dollar world.

Lastly a big thank you for always answering
My questions no matter how trivial….

You are a Great asset to VAM World.
Attachments
70C7EA06-2B00-4B68-B83C-F496CE423627.jpeg
70C7EA06-2B00-4B68-B83C-F496CE423627.jpeg (149.61 KiB) Viewed 1655 times

User avatar
lewisr2
Posts: 194
Joined: Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:42 pm

Re: Unicorns Are Real!

Post by lewisr2 » Sat Feb 05, 2022 5:00 pm

here are two photos of my raw 1N3
Attachments
21-D V-1N3 -two.JPG
21-D V-1N3 -two.JPG (192.71 KiB) Viewed 1639 times
21-D V-1N 3 date.JPG
21-D V-1N 3 date.JPG (181.02 KiB) Viewed 1639 times

Post Reply