Holding a sparkling, high grade 8 tail-feather Morgan dollar in your hands for the first time can be quite an experience! It’s hard not to be mesmerized by its higher relief design, broad rims and jewel-like luster. And if you’re fortunate enough to encounter a deep mirror, proof-like specimen, its reflective fields and cameo contrast can magically transport even the most discriminating collector straight into a world of 8-TF enchantment.
But trying to collect 8-TF Morgans can also open a floodgate of questions. How can a collector correctly identify a particular variety... and be confident about the attribution? It was the search for an answer to this question that stimulated Jeff Oxman and Les Hartnett, the authors of "The 1878 Morgan Dollar 8-TF Attribution Guide," to put pen to paper in 1997 and develop a more complete set of diagnostics than had been available up to that time. And together with first rate close-up photography by Bill Fivaz, the guide allowed quicker and easier attributions for any 8-TF variety. It obviously fulfilled a need, as the first edition of the guide sold out in three weeks.
Even so, collectors can often feel like Alice in Wonderland stepping though the looking glass, asking "What are the best 8-TF varieties to collect? Which are the rarest and most desirable? What 8-TF VAMs are worth the greatest premiums?" It’s taken two decades to sort out the answers to these questions, but one thing is for sure. This hobby focus on 8-TF Morgan dollars has impacted ALL the 8-TF VAMs. In June of 1998, when the first edition of the 8-TF book was released, any MS63 specimen had a “sheet” value of around $50. Today, the same specimen is worth at least $200. The numbers speak for themselves.
At the same time, the premium for scarcer 8-TF varieties has literally skyrocketed. Want an example? An ANACS 1878 VAM 14-17 in AU sold at public auction for slightly under $15,000 when its non-variety 8-TF counterpart in the same grade was worth less than $75. Just imagine the value of an uncirculated specimen! And worth considering is the fact that there are probably more VAM 14-17s to be found.
Ready for an adventure? Attributing 8-TF Morgans isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes a desire to learn and a love of U.S. silver dollars to be successful. "The 1878 8-TF Morgan Dollar Attribution Guide" provided a roadmap for collectors to navigate their way. Today, with new technology we have VAMWorld.com to help collectors through the numismatic landscape of 8-TF collecting. With the cutting-edge resources provided by the internet, it’s never been easier to attribute these shimmering cartwheels, and now it’s up to you, the collector, to enjoy the thrill of hunt!