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Glamorous and Important 1880 Coiled Hair Stella
Judd-1661, PR64 Gilt, Rarest of the Stella Types

1880 Coiled Hair Four Dollar Stella, Judd-1661, Pollock-1861, R.6, PR64 Gilt NGC.

Design. The George T. Morgan design from the 1879 Coiled Hair stellas is carried over to a second year in the 1880 Coiled Hair. Although the peripheral obverse inscription is the same on all of the stellas (and multiplied proportionally on the quintuple stellas), regardless of the metal struck, the date on the 1880 Coiled Hair is completely unlike that on the 1880 Flowing Hair pieces. Here the date is large and well-formed, somewhat close to the rim. The 1880 Flowing Hair pieces show a tiny date, shifted right and close to the lowest hair curl. The reverse of the 1880 Coiled Hair is the same as on the other three types, all from the same die.

Commentary. What was going on at the Mint in 1880, that the Flowing Hair and Coiled Hair stella versions were executed using two entirely different (and differently positioned) date logotypes, one much smaller than the other? There are also other minute positional differences in the legends encircling the obverse periphery: Note that here the 6 is much closer to star 1 than star 2, while on the 1880 Flowing Hair it is equally spaced. This is a fascinating anomaly with no ready answer. Like so much that occurred with all of the Mint chicanery and hijinks--especially in the era of Mint Director-coin collector Dr. Henry Richard Linderman, especially in the realm of numismatic baubles and patterns--there is no documentation now; there likely never was. The Guide Book says bluntly, "The 1880 coins were secretly made by Mint officials for sale to collectors." It has also been suggested that the 1880 gold stellas were struck on two different occasions, with two distinct finishes.

As a type and in all metals, the 1880 Coiled Hair stella is by far the rarest of the four dates and designs overall, followed by the 1879 Coiled Hair and then the 1880 Flowing Hair. While perhaps 17 gold examples of the 1880 Flowing Hair are known, the confirmed population of the 1880 gold Coiled Hair is nine pieces, including one in the Smithsonian. About a dozen or so examples of the 1880 Coiled Hair survive of the copper specimens, including the gilt coins. This marvelous stella is another opportunity for advanced collectors to assemble a world-class cabinet of these important and prestigious patterns.

Physical Description. The surfaces here are more greenish-gold on the obverse and orange-gold on the reverse. The obverse is noticeably better contrasted, and on its own might merit a Cameo designation. Deeply mirrored fields display distinctive contrast against thickly frosted devices. The strike, full throughout both sides, accentuates Liberty's upswept hair and the looping coils of the hairbun. A tiny oblong patch of copper color on the reverse, between the T of STELLA and the C of CENT, provides a pedigree marker. This an immensely glamorous and important coin.

NGC Census: 1 PR65 Brown, 1 PR67 Brown Cameo, 1 PR62 Gilt, 1 PR64 Gilt.
PCGS Population: 1 PR64 Red and Brown, 0 Gilt (11/10). (NGC ID# 3B5E, PCGS# 62046)

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Auction Dates
January, 2011
5th-9th Wednesday-Sunday
Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 5,775

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