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Attributing 1878-P 8-TF VAMs
Accomplishing the Impossible

The human mind is an amazing analytical tool. It can instantly decide whether to draw to an inside straight, take four new cards or fold. It can make sense of the multi-colored buttons on a VCR remote control. And it can even, in theory at least, master the freeway system here in Los Angeles! But judging from the letters we receive, it is safe to say that attributing Morgan Dollars is just about impossible for nearly everyone.

Why are the "8-TF " Morgans so difficult to attribute? There are a number of good reasons, starting off with the fact that so many of the 1878-P obverses are found with two or more reverses, and vice versa. Such an array of possible combinations results in attributions that are time-consuming and often perplexing. Anyone who has stared at a stack of unattributed 8-TF Morgan Dollars (along-side an open VAM Book turned to the pictures of 1878-P varieties) knows how trying the process of determining VAM Numbers can be.

Although not unique to 1878-P varieties, multiple obverse and reverse combinations are much less frequently encountered with the rest of the Morgan dollar series. For instance, if you come across an 1888-O Morgan and it has the much sought-after "Hot Lips" obverse, you can be reasonably sure it's a VAM 4, even without looking at the reverse. But not so with the 40 known 1878-P 8-TF varieties. The numerous combinations of the same obverse and reverse dies can cause serious difficulties, even for specialists.

Compounding the situation has been the lack of available information as to the diagnostics of the individual 8-TF VAMs. Here the VAM Book is remiss in not always photographing and describing each variety in such a way that one particular die can readily be distinguished from all the others. This is understandable given the constraints of the VAM Book, since few collectors would be willing to pay for a book that is thousands of pages in length! But collectors of 8-TF VAMs have been vocal about the need to have a much more in-depth attribution guide to differentiate one variety from another.

Adding to these problems is the rarity of an unusually large percentage of VAMs in the 8-TF Set. Less than half of the 1878-P 8-TF VAMs are readily obtainable, while most of the rest are either rare or ultra-rare. Surprisingly, there seems to be little ground in between. This complicates the attribution process because the majority of collectors have never had the opportunity to actually see the rarer half of the known varieties.

So, what's the answer? We believe it is the new Jeff Oxman/Les Hartnett guide to the identification of 8-TF varieties, entitled "The 1878 Morgan Dollar 8-TF Attribution System". For the first time there is an easy-to-use reference guide to literally accomplish the impossible, that is, to attribute any 8-TF Morgan Dollar quickly and accurately. Armed with cutting-edge, detailed information and spectacular photos available nowhere else, collectors can now readily identify all 40 of these varieties. And as a result, even novice VAM enthusiasts can successfully participate in one of the most fascinating areas of numismatics: the collecting of 8-TF Morgan dollar varieties. All who have seen the book agree. The attribution of these shimmering cartwheels has never been made easier. Now all that's left for the collector to do is enjoy the excitement of the thrill of the hunt!

Written By: Jeff Oxman .... Latest Revision: December 1999 .... All rights Reserved