The 1878-1880 Morgan designs were altered slightly. The differences are minor, but on the reverse, the original Liberty dollar’s eagle possessed eight original tail feathers. This design had an awkward appearance, so the number was reduced to seven in subsequent coinings. This modification, among others, caused several varieties and errors to appear in circulation.
The Morgan dollar was produced by all five mints, including the Carson City Mint (1878-1885 and 1889-1893). The Carson City Morgan dollar is among the most highly collectible, partly due to the coins’ high quality and clarity.
The many Morgan varieties are called VAMs, named after two notable experts, Leroy VanAllen and George Mallis. Among the most popular are the VAM-5, which had eight tail feathers rather than the later seven, and some doubled die letters, and the VAM-4, which is known colloquially as the 1880-O Hot Lips for the doubling of Lady Liberty’s lips on the obverse.
If you have any interest in collecting Morgan dollars in their various incarnations, Mullen Coins will be glad to help in your pursuit of the full set of 97 coins.