1888-O VAM-1B Stage Zero Challenge
Find Stage Zero!
This challenge has been issued to the VAMworld community May 12, 2009.
A recent post on the message board indicated that no one has yet identified a "stage zero" die stage of the coin that becomes the 1888-O VAM-1B1 after a die clash and a resulting obverse die crack. This is the variety that becomes Scarface once the die break, and only once the die break spans across Lady Liberty's face. All of the ten Harrison "H" stages of the 88-O VAM-1B are collectible, though some are rare and some are "common", relatively speaking.
We are looking for "stage zero", which might ultimately be dubbed the "H-0" ("H-zero") die state. This variety in theory should have the same obverse and reverse die markers as early stages of the variety (1888-O VAM-1B1) that are not associated with the clash or the break.
Here are some die markers to look for. These are not guaranteed to be on the elusive "stage zero", but are probable. Of course, if you know for sure that these markers are not present on earlier stages or other examples of EDS stages of the VAM, please speak up. Also, please feel free to add your own die markers.
These two lines in the bottom of the B in LIBERTY would presumably be present on "stage zero" examples:
On the reverse, look for these tiny die scratches in the eagle's upper tailfeather area:
Please note that "stage zero" will NOT have any of the obverse die crack, shown here in this H2 example:
Similarly, "stage zero" in theory will NOT have any signs of clashing on the reverse. That said, if you find a coin with the clash marks on the reverse but with no die crack at all on the obverse, then this would imply there are actually two "stage zeros", one with clashing but no crack, and one presumably with no clashing and no crack (stage "absolute zero"?). Actually, if, unexpectedly, the crack began before the clash occurred, then in theory there would be a stage with the beginning of the obverse crack but with no reverse clash marks.
In summary...check both sides of the coin! The most prominent clashed area on the reverse of the 88-O VAM-1B1 creates the "bearded eagle" effect:
There is no prize for discovering "stage zero" (at least none offered by the author of this challenge) but praise from your colleagues.
Now, go find it!
NOTE FROM ASH:
I do have a VERY early H1 coin that has no hint of the crack on the right side of the dot, nor any hint of the break between the denticles, only a very fine crack up the wall of the left (counter-clockwise) denticle. This is the earliest I've seen.