Research Reports

The 1926-S VAM 4 "Dot" variety

1926-S VAM4 Dot

Some things just shouldn’t happen, like a Missouri plow-horse winning the Kentucky Derby, or you finding you can lose weight eating chocolate cake and milkshakes! But there it was—a large "extra berry" among the leaves on the lower reverse of this 1926-S Peace dollar and it looked like part of the design. Of course, it was not really an extra berry, as Leroy was quick to point out. Rather it was an unintended miscue on the part of some unknown mint engraver while he was preparing the die for use in the coin press. Specifically, what appears to be a raised "berry" is most likely the result of an engraver’s pointed tool inadvertently impacting the die. After all, who would notice? But the "extra berry" moniker has stuck, ever since this writer discovered the variety more than twenty years ago. Most would agree, the 1926-S "Dot on Reverse" VAM 4 is one of the more remarkable varieties in the Peace dollar Top 50, as there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the VAM universe.

1926-S VAM 4 PCGS Population
April 2018
  Grades of VAM 4 Slabbed Coins Numbers of Coins In Particular Grades  
  VF to AU 92  
  MS60/61 5  
  MS62 13  
  MS63 8  
  MS64 16  
  MS65 5  
  MS66 1  

That said, the VAM 4 is not among of the rarest varieties in the Top 50 listings. Based on the PCGS Population numbers, this variety is readily obtainable in all grades up through AU. It then becomes more desirable in MS60 to MS64, and is truly rare only in MS65 or higher. Naturally, we’re only talking in terms of today’s marketplace, where the number of Peace dollar VAM collectors is limited. Looked at in a different light, PCGS has encountered a total of 143 VAM 4’s in all grades, and that means that if just 150 collectors wanted PCGS slabbed specimens in the next upturn, there just wouldn’t be enough to go around!

At this point we focus our attention on the actual die progression for this variety. The obverse, according to Dr. Close began with the VAM 6 die pair. The reverse was then replaced in the coin press with the "Dot on Reverse" die, and this new VAM 4 die pair then went through at least two clashing episodes, as seen in the accompanying research chart. Next, the obverse die was replaced with a new one, and the dies clashed again. Finally, die cracks and severe die polishing further damaged the die to the point that both dies were taken out of service. Even so, given that we’ve delineated twelve die stages for the VAM 4, this variety enjoyed quite an eventful lifetime.

1926-S VAM 4 "Dot Variety" Die Progression:

(Reconciling Oxman Die Stages and Dr. Close’s Die State Listings)

All rights Reserved © 2018 Jeff Oxman • April 30, 2018
No part of this research or presentation may be reproduced by any means without the written consent of the author.


Acknowledgement: Giving credit where credit is certainly due, the contribution of Dr. David Close to the data in this chart could not be overstated. There’s no question that Dr. Close is the foremost expert in that segment of our hobby known as U.S. Peace dollar varieties, and my research, or anyone else’s for that matter, rests squarely on his shoulders. Thanks, David, for so graciously sharing your knowledge and insights with the rest of us!

Editor’s Notes:

June 1, 2018 Dr. Close sent the following analysis of the current 1926-S Die Progression Chart:

Jeff, Nice work on the die progression of this variety! With coins in hand, here are my comments:

Pre stageMy coin is uinclashed but has the die crack seen at 1 in date on obv. 1 of VAM 4
Die Stage 1Looks good
Die Stage 2Looks good, may not exist
Die Stage 3Looks good
Die Stage 4Die Stage 2 has this same fork in die crack, although faintly. Appears to be the same as Die Stage 3
Die Stage 5Looks good
Die Stage 6Looks good
Die Stage 7Has small die chip between curl & tail of 9 in date
Die Stage 8Would like to see one w/ unpolished clash mark on reverse.
Die Stage 9Clashing above hair on obv does not appear to have been polished, appears to be same as Die Stage 8. Has die crack on neck
Die Stage 10Evidence of die clashing above hair has been polished off. Die crack neck extends slightly into field above 9
Die Stage 11Looks good, this was the original VAM 4A, the earlier die states were added later.
Die Stage 12Would be neat if someone found either of these possibilities!