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Roger Beckner

The 1921 D Morgan $ Vam 1N Unicorn continues to be remarkably popular with silver dollar variety/vam collectors. It features a prominent, easily seen, reverse die break on top right of the letter D in UNITED that emulates the taper and upward angle of a singular horn. The nickname "Unicorn" assigned to this variety seems to be very fitting, and has been beneficial in promoting recognition. PCGS and NGC label Vam 1N with the Unicorn nickname.

The elite Morgan Dollar Vam " Hit List 40" also includes the 1921 D Vam 1N Unicorn.
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In response to the 2016 submission by Patrick Fischer of a new late die stage retained cud specimen, Leroy Van Allen subdivided the 1921 D Vam 1N Unicorn into three die stages:
1. Vam 1N1 - Early die stage with only a die crack from top right D.
2. Vam 1N2 - Middle die stage with a shallow but notable horn shaped die break from top right D.
3. Vam 1N3 - Late die stage with rim to rim retained cud from above T over through ED. The horn
shaped die break and letter D now merge together without a borderline serif. Rarity factor of 6/7 listed on VAMWORLD 2.0 web-site.
Note: The retained cud die break is very significant because it precedes imminent separation of the die face, which results in a terminal die state CUD. Broken dies always receive summary retirement.

The subject of this discussion on the Unicorn variety is one atypical specimen housed in an ANACS holder graded MS 61 Vam 1N3. An extension appears to enlarge the Unicorn die break onto the top surface of letter D and down back of D, terminating at a sharp diagonal point. This extension forms an image that is similar to an anvil. (See Photo)

My observations about this Unicorn specimen seemed to be significant, so I submitted it to Leroy Van Allen for attribution as a possibly new Unicorn die break progression with unreported displaced field below date.

Quote from LVA report: "1921 D ANACS 49028 - Vam 1N3 Revised - Added to description displaced field break below 21 - Thanks for pointing it out! Reverse has taken all of interest over years with breaks/cud at TED. Using 30X stereo microscope, D of UNITED has depression on top from temporary strikethru error."

A strike-thru error is caused by foreign material between the die face and planchet when the coin is struck. This debris will always leave a depressed area on the coin. Sometimes, letters become clogged or partially filled with dirt, grease, metal particles, etc. on the die; which results in missing, weak, shallow incomplete letters on the coin. Usually striking pressure, molds and hardens this debris into very low angle obstructions within the recesses of the die. However, this particular specimen shows a diagonal obstruction boundary in the back of D that does not conform to normal low angle transition. HYPOTHESIS: IMO - Part of the compacted obstruction may have fractured and fell out of the letter D die recess prior to striking this coin, creating the unusual diagonal and vertical high angle boundary. This vertical boundary is contrasted by a normal low angle transition, south towards the bottom of the D. The cumulative visual effect of the high-low angled obstruction boundaries create the ILLUSION of an anvil shaped die break extension

from the Unicorn break. This optical illusion has to be seen in hand in order to truly appreciate!
Therefore, I present to you, the UNICORN CHIMAERA ...
Numismatic Food for Thought
Sometimes, striking errors actually enhance the visual effect of the devices, and make the variety more interesting!

Photos by : Roxanne Beckner
Technical support by : Wayne Roberts