1889-CC Morgan Dollar Genuine Dies

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Posted by: John Roberts, on 7/11/2007, in category "Grading and Authentication"
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Abstract: An authentication guide to this key date.

1889 CC Morgan Dollar Genuine Dies
A study by John Roberts
(revised 8 July 07)
5 obverse dies and 5 reverse dies combine to form 6 die pairs
It has been my privilege to authenticate a number of examples of this key date Morgan Dollar. Unlike the 1893-S and 1894 Philadelphia issues, there has been little information available to positively identify genuine dies for this important date. To this end, notes and photographs were taken from every suitable example encountered. After a number of months, it appears the dies actually used or those with their issue still extant are largely accounted for.  Two particular stages have proven to be particularly elusive, but the dies that produced them are identified with a fair degree of certainty. The best source of information on 89-CC’s has been the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis along with the annual updates of this work by Leroy Van Allen. However, the VAM book is about varieties, not die diagnostics of otherwise fairly unremarkable pieces from the viewpoint of a variety specialist.Each die pair has been cross-referenced to its VAM number when possible. It is almost a law of nature that any written work becomes outdated almost as soon as it is published. I welcome the discovery of other legitimate dies and the unveiling of stages not illustrated here. Without a beginning, there is no growth of knowledge. It is my hope that the information presented here will assure those that own genuine pieces and further suppress the forgeries that damage our market.
I have used shorthand for date positions that has not appeared elsewhere, although these measurements are similar to those used in the Van Allen-Mallis work. It was necessary to fix more accurate locations for this type of work. The left and right edges of the base of the 1 were measured relative to the point of the neck and the number of denticles in between. These distances are prefaced in shorthand by LEB1 and REB1. The letter and number following is a denticle count, C3 is for the center of the 3rd, LH4 would be over the left half of the 4th, RE2 is the right edge of the 2nd, and B45 would be located between the 4th and 5th denticles. After seeing the measurements a few times, they should become as familiar as Overton’s star positions are to Capped Bust Half collectors. When the mintmark is discussed, the first C is denoted as C1 and the second as C2.
    In his work Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States A Complete Encyclopedia, Q David Bowers notes that 10 obverse and 7 reverse dies were shipped to Carson City to produce dollars in 1889. Mint records indicated that 350,000 pieces were produced. Bowers estimated a surviving population of between 8500 and 15,000 pieces in all grades. Although several thousand mint state pieces were placed into numismatic channels in the early 1960’s only a single example was in the GSA holdings. It is far and away the rarest Carson City date and a key to the series.
I have positively identified five obverse and five reverse dies forming six marriages.
Here is a “Quick Finder” index to aid in attribution
LEB1 C3      Die Pair 1 C2 appears low; Die Pair 4 C2 appears high
LEB1 B34    Die Pair 2 C2 high; Die Pair 5 C2 low; Die Pair 6 CC’s level
LEB1  LH3   Die Pair 3 CC’s level & almost always cracked thru S of PLURIBUS
It has been of great assistance to view the permanent archives of two major auction houses. I would like to thank Heritage and Stacks/ANR for making their past and present catalogs available online for no charge. It has proven to be an invaluable research tool. I have noted two examples of each listing by their lot number. Please visit their websites to view large images of higher grade examples of each die pairing.
If any genuine examples are encountered that do not match these descriptions, I would appreciate the opportunity to examine them to photograph and to edit my descriptions.
Die Pair 1
(Obverse 1 paired with Reverse A)
Matches VAM 2 description-RPD on 1 with CC set right
Obverse 1
LEB1 C3 REB1 B45
Develops thin crack from center of right edge of first 8 thru
upper half of the lower loop of second 8 continuing on to ball of 9
                Minor doubling under upper serif of 1                 Strong line in top of E 
                  Several thin parallel diagonal lines            Nearly vertical line points down to right
                  down to right between cotton bolls               from right side of lowest cotton leaf
Reverse A
               Serif of C1 in line with center of bow knot           Multiple polishing lines in wing gap
               C2 appears to be minutely lower than C1        Diagonal line in wing point down to right
              Short horizontal parallel lines inside right leg          “X” scratch to right of CC
Some examples show long curving line from rim above first T of STATES
thru top of A, center of T and corner of E on to S of TRUST
            Crack forms from top of U in UNITED toward left star & O of ONE, similar to Rev. E
A common die pair
See Heritage Lot 1101  Jan 07 FUN; Lot 1488 Oct 06 Dallas
Die Pair 2
(Obverse 2 paired with Reverse B)
Matches VAM 3 description-far date with mintmark tilted to left
Obverse 2
Dies match description of VAM 3
      Diagonal line thru upright and right top of T              Vertical line crosses cap band 
      Several short lines in Y. Weak line from edge of       somewhat near its upper end
      wheat leaf forms 353 degree angle, nearly perpendicular
               Short line under left side of upper boll         Thin lines in lower corners of L and B
            Several lines from right side of lower boll     Diagonals in L lower right, B lower left
Reverse B
        Serif of C1 just outside left edge of bow knot               High line in wing gap
                C2 high and very close to ribbon
                Matches VAM 3 plate-“tilted left”
            Crack from bottom of S to lower half of            Small scratch between lower right
              left side of O continuing to center of                         ribbon and lower leaf
            inside edge of O on right toward top of F
This obverse is very similar to Obverse 5, but polishing lines show they are different dies. The reverse is much like Reverse D, but the mintmarks are in minutely different positions and the pattern of die cracks are also similar, but with notable differences.
A common die pair
See Heritage Lot 1105 Jan 07 FUN; Lot 3520 Apr 06 Central States
Die Pair 3
(Obverse 3 paired with Reverse C)
“Normal” date position with mintmark set right
Obverse 3
Leroy Van Allen attributed and listed this stage as VAM-2A
Further left than all other 89-CC dies, “almost near”  
                  Pattern of lines in LIBERTY, fairly              Branched crack pattern from rim at S
                    thick vertical line in upright of Y                 of PLURIBUS to cap in two places
                    Double clashmark with a partial N            VLDS with die break from rim to lips
                                                                 Nearly terminal stage of this die
Reverse C
               Serif of C1 in line with center of bow knot         Thick horizontal line inside right leg
                   Position is very similar to Reverse A            Curved line points up on outside of leg
                   Double clash line from wing to N of IN                   Counterclashed leaf tip
Crack pattern thru STATES OF
Exact match to Die Pair 6 reverse
Reverses B, D and E have similar but different crack patterns
I have not seen this die pair without the clashes and die cracks. Apparently the damage occurred early in this die pair’s usage. The reverse was later paired with Obverse 5. The most rare 89-CC variety may prove to be the early stage of this die pair if it exists.
A fairly scarce variety in this stage, truly rare in mint state
See Heritage Lot 1328 Nov 06 Dallas; Lot 5277 Sep 06 Long Beach
Die Pair 4
(Obverse 4 paired with Reverse D)
Matches VAM 4 description-normal date position with mintmark tilted left
Obverse 4
LEB1 C3 REB1 B45
Date position is virtually identical to Obverse 1, upper serif of digit 1 not repunched
                       Patterns of lines inside LIBERTY                    Short “point” down to right
                          Strong line in right foot of R                       from lower back edge of nose
                       Pattern of faint die lines around                Two diagonal lines down to left in
                             cotton bolls and leaves                     gap to right of “bearclaw” in lower hair
Reverse D
                Serif of C1 just inside left edge of bow knot            “X” scratch high in wing gap
                C2 slightly high and closer to ribbon than O         Short line in narrow point of gap
                Position is similar to Reverse B                        doesn’t touch wing or neck
                                                                                      Short vertical line near bottom of gap
                 Crack from near center of S to near center               Light pitting in bow opening
                    of O continuing on, passing thru upper          Diagonal line down to left near bottom
                           half of right of O and then F                     Another diagonal line down to left at a
                 Pattern distinctly different than Reverse B       45 degree angle between wreath and bow
I haven’t seen an example of VAM 4A, with weak partial E clashed on reverse.
This stage was reported to and confirmed by Leroy Van Allen in July 2003.
The “Weak E” 89-CC may also be a contender for the rarest variety of this date.
            This reverse also develops a pattern of cracks very similar to Reverses A and E. Thin crack line starts at U of UNITED, passes thru left star and letters of ONE touching left side of O at a point clearly higher than the other dies mentioned.
A scarce variety
See Heritage Lot 1329 Nov 06 Dallas; Lot 6683 Jan 06 FUN
Die Pair 5
(Obverse 5 paired with Reverse E)
 No exact match in VAM-far date with second C set slightly low
Obverse 5
LEB1 B34 REB1 C5
Die very similar to Obverse 2
                    Scratch from cotton to wheat leaf              Two short scratches inside ear at top
                     Shallow yet clearly visible angle
                                      338 degrees
                        Nearly full lower hair detail                       Fairly long thin scratch under left side
                    Obv 2 is slightly overpolished at initial                      of upper cotton boll
Reverse E
              Serif of C1 slightly left of center of bow knot      Pitting in wing gap similar to Rev C
               C2 slightly but clearly lower than C1 
                    Develops two cracks to left of O                 Later stages display small die chip
                    Cracked from bottom of O to F                             to left of E of ONE
Crack pattern on thru U of UNITED, star and ONE very similar to Rev A
forms below star towards O first, and has slightly different configuration
Appears to be the most common 89-CC die marriage
See Heritage Lot 1100 Jan 07 FUN; Lot 1059 Apr 06 Atlanta
Die Pair 6
(Obverse 5-second use paired with Reverse C-second use)
No exact match with VAM-far date with mintmark set right
Curved crack from point of bust to base of 1
Crack thru all four digits slightly above their centers
             Single clashmark, no matching mark on               Break pattern on right wingtip
            reverse, from clash during 5-E marriage        Double clash line IN from 3-C marriage
Exact crack pattern as Die Pair 3
Counterclash fades during this marriage
A scarce variety, fairly rare in mint state
See Heritage Lot 9691 May 05 Central States; Stack’s/ANR Lot 1527 July 05 LaBelle

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