Welcome to the Wonderful World of VAM's, or, as We prefer
For the bulk of recorded history gold and silver have been recognized world wide as money. And, until the mid 19th century a strange relationship between the two metals existed. On every Continent, everywhere they were mined, it seemed that for every ounce of gold the earth delivered up, 16 ounces of silver were found. As a result gold and silver were exchanged universally in the ratio of 16 ounces of silver for one ounce of gold.
That is, until the mid 19th Century, when a whole mountain of silver was discovered in Nevada!
There was so much silver in Nevada, in fact, that silver prices plummeted, and the "Golden ratio" of 16 ounces of silver to one ounce of gold no longer held true. As a result, The US Government demonitzed silver in 1873. Silver was no longer to be money in the United States!
Of course, the folks mining silver in Nevada weren't too pleased about it, and they immediately began lobbying for the remonetization of silver.
This was achieved in 1878 when Congressmen from Eastern states who wanted to raise import duties on manufactured goods got together with Congressman from the West who wanted to reestablish silver as money. They passed the Bland Allison Act. This Act forced the government to buy millions of ounces of silver every month and coin it into Silver Dollars.
The pressure was on at the Mint! In order to meet its legal requirements, the Mint didn't take its usual time and care in producing the new Morgan Silver Dollars, but rather worked fast, not paying much attention to the finer details of the coins. They overpunched dates, they placed Mint Marks in tilted positions, they doubled letters---countless variations were created for most dates and at most Mints.
Fast forward to the late Twentieth century when two Numismitists, Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis began cataloging all the varieties of Morgan Dollars created by the Mint. The result was The Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Silver Dollars, where they listed every VAM (Van Allen Mallis V+A+M=VAM).
But for some collecters, the thousands of VAM's listed were just too many--and the top 100 VAM's were deliniated in The Top 100 Morgan Dollar Varieties: The VAM Keys.
Collecting VAMs is growing like wildfire! There really are few other areas of coin collectiong where so many differnet varieties of coins are available to the collector at such a reasonable cost. And there is such a thrill of discovery! Who knows what these coins will be worth in the future, but as collectors sock them away they are only going to get more and more scarce--remember---no more will ever be made!