A potential diagnostic pitfall in the histologic assessment of melanoma is the inability to recognize unusual melanoma variants. Of these, the more treacherous examples include the desmoplastic melanoma, the nevoid melanoma, the so-called 'minimal-deviation melanoma,' melanoma with prominent pigment synthesis or 'animal-type melanoma,' and the malignant blue nevus. Also problematic are the unusual phenotypic profiles seen in vertical growth phase melanomas; these include those tumors whose morphological peculiarities mimic cancers of nonmelanocytic lineage and those melanomas that express aberrant antigenic profiles not commonly associated with a melanocytic histogenesis. Metaplastic change in melanoma, balloon cell melanoma, signet-ring cell melanoma, myxoid melanoma, small cell melanoma and rhabdoid melanoma all have the potential to mimic metastatic and primary neoplasms of different lineage derivations. Abnormal immunohistochemical expression of CD 34, cytokeratins, epithelial membrane antigen, and smooth muscle markers as well as the deficient expression of S100 protein and melanocyte lineage-specific markers such as GP100 protein (ie HMB-45 antibody) and A103 (ie Melan-A) also present confusing diagnostic challenges. In this review, we will discuss in some detail certain of these novel clinicopathologic types of melanoma, as well as the abnormal phenotypic expressions seen in vertical growth phase melanoma.