This is the second prototype for the Morgan dollar with 3 leaves on the olive branch. This one is the so-called "Notched" wing variety as would later be used on the regular issue. The first variety J1550A-J1550B/P1723-P1726 has the wings shaped like a fan. Research of mint archives by Roger Burdette has shown that at least 50 pieces of J1550A and J1550 were struck between December 1, 1877 & January 2, 1878.
Examples are known as follows:
J1550-J1551/P1727-P1728 in silver and copper. On this obverse, the wheat ear is distant from the "R" in "Pluribus" and the third leaf virtually touches the "I" as on the illustration above. Fewer than a half dozen are known in either metal.
J1550/P1727A in silver. This is not in Pollock and was recently the subject of an article in the February 17th edition of Coin World.
According to Michael S. Fey, PhD., whose example is the one illustrated below, "It has a polished down wheat leaf below the R, polished L in LIBERTY on the head band, polished bottoms to several letters in PLURIBUS and UNUM, and doubled cotton blossoms and leaves."
Two other examples, the Bowers and Merena's 5/93 sale lot 2422 and Bowers and Merena's 11/95 lot 2308 await confirmation as to whether or not they are from the same dies as the illustrated piece or are from yet another obverse die. We have called these J1550-J1551/P1728A-P1728B in the pattern concordance.
Photos courtesy of Michael S. Fey, Ph.D.