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Could someone give me some info on what Vam is. I see people taliking about certain types of ratings such as Vam and there is another like r1 or something. Sorry I am not making sense but I would like to read up on the additional ratings. Oh and I believe Walter Bream or breem was mentioned too. Thanks for any assistance.

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copied from Vamlink.com


So, what is a VAM? The heart of collecting Morgan and Peace dollar varieties is based on the idea of a "VAM," which is an acronym for the two men credited with starting this fascinating segment of the market. In the early 1960's Van Allen and Mallis (VAM) developed the system of cataloguing Morgan and Peace dollars that we use now, where each different variety is called a VAM, and each has been assigned a VAM Number. It's as simple as that.


Where can you find the listings and descriptions for a particular VAM? You go straight to what is called the "VAM Book," whose full title is: "The Comprehensive Catalogue and Encyclopedia of U.S. Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars". Whew! This book by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis may have a long title, but it's easy to use. In the VAM attribution system, each variety for a given date and mintmark has been assigned its own number. For instance, the 1887-P overdate (which is now considered an integral part of any Morgan Dollar collection) has been assigned its own number, 1887-P VAM 2. By giving each variety a different number, it's possible to identify any particular silver dollar variety simply by stating its date, mintmark and unique VAM Number. Currently there are eighteen different 1887-P varieties known, but only the overdate variety is referred to as VAM 2. Each of the others has its own VAM Number, listed in the VAM Book as VAM 1, VAM 3, etc., up to VAM 18.


So, each date in the Morgan and Peace Dollar series has its own run of reference numbers, beginning at VAM 1 and proceeding as high as necessary to accommodate all the known varieties for that particular date and mintmark. Hence, the next 1887-P variety to be discovered would be assigned 1887-P VAM 19. But don't think that you have to remember all the VAM Numbers of all the varieties in the Morgan and Peace dollar series! The key is simply to look up the date in the VAM Book and then match the coin you have in your hand with the pictures and descriptions in the book for the particular VAM Number. It's as easy as 1 -2- 3.



The two best sites for Vam info are:









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Walter Breen was a numismatic scholar and prolific writer. However, his personal problems, he was convicted of pedophilia and died in prison in the early 1990s of brain cancer, cast a long shadow on his contributions. The most widely used Breen book is Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of US and Colonial Coins and this book can be found for anywhere from $85-$135 depending on where you might get it. The book is out of print and there are no indications that a new edition will come out. It was printed in the early 1990s and is one of the single most valuable numismatic books ever written.


KC has given you good information on VAMs so I will not add to it.


As for the R values, these stand for the rarity values given to each variety. These values typically range from R1 to R8 with an R8 being unique, or nearly so, and an R1 considered common. In the early half dollar series coins are given Overton numbers, these are similar to VAM numbers, and the rarity values, reflecting the estimated number of extant coins of each die variety, are as follows-










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Additionally, I would add that VAM and Overton are not the only attribution systems within the sphere of US and Colonial numismatics. There are many other widely accepted systems for other series, some of which are:


Early Dollars: Bolender #, Bowers-Borckardt #

Early 25C: Browning

Early 10C: John Reich

Early H10C: Logan-McClosky

Seated 50C: Wiley-Bugert

H1C: Cohen

Early G$10: Taraszka


There are many more, but I'm drawing a blank on the rest. Anyway, these attribution systems seek to classify a variety based typically on die (re-)marriage or die state.


As for rarity ratings, I think the "R" system that TomB explained was developed for Large Cents (not sure). Q. David Bowers explained that this system is not relevent for certain series whose extant pops and high demand require much greater granularity within the "R.1" grouping. He then went on to propose something he called the URS (universal rarity scale) that offers far greater granularity. In this scale, the URS-3 is not equivalent to an R-3 in terms of estimated available pop.


This new scale, while somewhat better, has not caught on with the mainstream.



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