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Major 1878 Morgan Dollar Varieties (Classes)

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Major 1878 Morgan Dollar Varieties (Classes)


In an earlier thread Didz posed the following question:


Ok.. few things. How do I distinguish exactly what type for this year this morgan is? I saw all kinds of varieties in the PG.


Ok, here goes …


More than 20 years ago I put together this set of 1878 Morgan dollars in a Capital Plastics holder. This holder really needs to have a sixth hole for another variety of eagle, and of course the Carson City and San Francisco are not really separate varieties.




The eight tail feather variety may have been the first of the Morgan dollars. At any rate George Morgan's pattern dollars had seven tail feathers on the eagle so this varity was something different.




The seven over eight tail feather varieties (I think there are more than 40 of them) often show additional feathers below the main ones on the eagles body. There are so-called "weak" seven over eight tail feather pieces that show only traces on virtually nothing, however some of these coins have doubling in other areas.




The seven tail feather pieces with the CONCAVE breast feathers are the most common 1878 dollar major variety.




Finally at the end of the year there was another seven tail feather variety. This one had CONCEX breast feathers. This is the scarcest of the four varieties, but there is nothing rare about it. Dave Bowers in his two volume work on U.S. silver dollars estimated that the mintage of this variety was 2 million pieces. This is also known as the "reverse of 1879" variety.




I present this only as a beginning to answer the question. Others will probably want to add more.

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Compare the eagle's breast on the third and fourth coins. On the fourth piece the breast feathers are higher above the surface of the coin.


If that doesn't work for you, check the top arrow feathers. On the concave variety those feathers are straight. On convex variety, they are curved.


Straight arrows




Slanting arrows



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The concave variety also looks like it has a shadow there at the breast feathering which people often think of as wear.

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You know, sometimes you take it for granted that people know the answers to some questions, thats why no question is a stupid question.


I do not know if Bill still has all the examples in his disertation :) ... but all examples are in my morgan registry set.


I started with a good idea then did not finish it.


I had close up pictures of the reverses of all these with close up pictures of the difference in question - 7 tail / 8 tail / 7/8 tail and I know I was going to do close ups of the concave and convex examples and did not ... I must have forgot :makepoint:


My new camera does not have that capability yet .. I need to write myself a note to finish that project ... Here is how I had the pictures ... If you look at the 7 tail it has pretty good shot of the concave breast also - NICE JOB BILL !!






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