1879 Coiled Hair Stella, PR66 Cameo
1879 $4 Coiled Hair, Judd-1638, Pollock-1838, R.6, PR66 Cameo
PCGS Secure. The 1879 Coiled Hair stella is one of the rarest
and most valuable issues in American numismatics. The coins possess
a beauty of design and intense historic interest that few issues
can match, in addition to their absolute rarity. The infrequent
auction appearances of Coiled Hair examples are met with spirited
bidding from pattern enthusiasts and advanced U.S. gold collectors
alike. The most recent public offering realized a price in excess
of $1 million. Heritage Auctions is pleased to offer one of the
finest known examples of this iconic issue in our January 2014 FUN
Gold Pattern Rarity, Judd-1638, Ex: Garrett
None Numerically Finer at PCGS
All stellas are technically patterns for a proposed international coinage that was intended to function much as the euro does in the EU today. Two designs were produced, the Flowing Hair motif by William Barber and the Coiled Hair design by George Morgan. Both types were produced in successive years in 1879 and 1880, but only the 1879 Flowing Hair type is seen with any regularity, as several hundred restrikes were made of that issue. Both designs were also struck in copper, aluminum, and white metal. Although the stellas were ostensibly produced in the goloid alloy patented by Dr. Wheeler Hubbell, recent research suggests that all the "Goloid" stellas were struck on half eagle planchets that were filed down to reduce the gold content to the proper level. This procedure resulted in the parallel striations seen on all known examples.
As mentioned above, the 1879 Coiled Hair stella is much more elusive than its Flowing Hair counterpart. Contemporary collectors believed only 10 coins were struck, but a few more examples are known today, so either the initial mintage was slightly larger or there was a small restrike mintage in 1880. The PCGS CoinFacts website estimates 12-15 examples are extant in all grades, and this corresponds well with our roster below, which lists 13 distinct specimens, including three that are impounded in institutional collections. The roster was expanded from the listing on the USPatterns.com website, and it is possible that some duplication has occurred, since plate matching photographic images of uneven quality is a difficult task. Some off-metal examples have been gilt at various times, and these are hard to distinguish without weighing, causing some confusion in the pedigree trails.
Like many Flowing Hair examples, the Coiled Hair stellas were marketed as part of three-coin Goloid sets, including an example of the Goloid dollar, Judd-1622, a Metric dollar pattern, Judd-1631, and the Coiled Hair stella, Judd-1638. One of the earliest auction appearances of such a set was in the John Colvin Randall Collection (George Cogan, 3/18882), lot 631:
"1879 Goloid Set. Goloid Dollar. Hair done up in a knob. Band of ribbon with Liberty on it. Rev. '895-8-S. 42-G. 100C 25 Grams' in centre of wreath. 'One Dollar' below. 'Deo Est Gloria' above. Brilliant proof.
"Metric Dollar. Hair braided and done up in a coil. Ribbon 'with Liberty on it.' Rev. 15.3-G. 236-7-S. 28-C. 14 Grams within circle of 38 stars. '100 Cents' below. Brilliant proof.
"Gold Stella (No. 4 piece). Hair braided and done up in a coil, head of Liberty surrounded by *6*G*.3.*S*.7*C*7*G*R*A*M*S* Rev. A star inscribed 'One Stella, 400 Cents.' Brilliant proof. This set has never been offered before at either public or private sale. Excessively rare.
"Note.-This set must not be taken for the ordinary 'Goloid Set' as the obverse is nothing like it. In this set hair of Liberty is arranged in coils, while in the other it falls down the neck in curls, and the face is totally different."
The present coin claims the longest pedigree of any 1879 Coiled Hair stella. It traces its history to the fabled Garrett Collection, founded by T. Harrison Garrett in the second half of the 19th century. Garrett's records indicate he purchased this coin "From Bangs & Co., January 6, 1882." Bangs & Co. was a New York City auction house that operated under several similar names during much of the 19th century. Several prominent catalogers, including Edward Cogan, J.N.T. Levick, Charles Anton, and H.P. Smith, used Bangs as the physical auction facility for their sales. Martin Gengerke's American Numismatic Auctions reveals that H.P. Smith held his Sale of Coins at the Bangs 739 and 741 Broadway location on January 6, 1882, undoubtedly the true source of Garrett's purchase. Lot 655 in the Gold Patterns section of the catalog reads:
"1879 Same. GOLD STELLA 4 DOLLAR PIECE. Brilliant Proof."
The word "Same" in the description refers to PATTERN, which was listed in a previous lot. The following two lots, also minimally described, were a Goloid dollar and a Metric dollar. It seems Smith was not making the distinction between the different types of stellas at this early date. If the three lots above did constitute a Morgan Goloid Set, then George Cogan was incorrect in claiming one had never been offered before in his March 1882 catalog, although he could hardly be blamed for not recognizing the true nature of the set in Smith's terse descriptions. Researchers still naturally believe the set in Smith's sale was the more common Barber Goloid Set, down to the present day.
The Garrett family managed the B. & O. Railroad, which is famous today as one of the railroad properties in the popular Monopoly board game. T. Harrison Garrett was a connoisseur of numismatics and, even though he died young in a boating accident, he had the resources to assemble one of the finest cabinets of the 19th century. His collection, including the coin offered here, was passed on to his sons, who continued to add to and upgrade their holdings until John Work Garrett passed away in 1942. The collection was donated to Johns Hopkins University after his death, and finally dispersed in a series of sales by several auction companies after 1976. When this coin was featured in lot 431 of the Garrett Collection, Part I (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1979), it realized $115,000, a staggering price for any coin at that time.
This piece has been offered in several notable collections since the Garrett sale, always causing intense excitement and realizing higher prices at every appearance. It has been off the market for more than a decade now, realizing a stunning $310,500 in its last offering in Stack's 65th Anniversary Sale. Considering the prices recent offerings have realized, we expect it to bring a multiple of that total today.
The present coin is a magnificent Premium Gem, with razor-sharp definition on most design elements, showing just a touch of softness on some hair strands due to the always present planchet striations. These striations are minimal on this specimen and not nearly as noticeable as they appear on some examples. The devices display a richly frosted texture that creates intense cameo contrast with the deeply mirrored fields. The well-preserved yellow-gold surfaces are virtually pristine, with just a tiny mark between star 1 and the dentils and a microscopic spot above the 8 in the date to act as pedigree markers. This coin possesses terrific eye appeal to complement its high technical grade and outstanding pedigree. A comparable specimen may not become available for decades. Population: 3 in 66 (1 in 66+) Cameo, 0 finer (11/13).
Roster of 1879 Coiled Hair Stellas
1. PR67 Cameo NGC. Western Collection (Stack's, 12/1981), lot 1137; Gold Rush Collection (Heritage, 1/2005), lot 30041, realized $655,500; Tacasyl Collection (Bonhams, 9/2013), lot 1009, realized $1,041,300.
2. PR66 Cameo PCGS. Sale of Coins (Harlan Page Smith, 1/1882), lot 655; T. Harrison Garrett; Robert Garrett; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part I (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1979), lot 431; Auction '80 (Superior, 8/1980), lot 385; Buddy Ebsen Collection (Superior, 5/1987), lot 2444; Holecek Family Trust; 65th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2000), lot 1623; the present coin.
3. PR66 PCGS. Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; United States Gold Coin Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1882), lot 317; Dr. Jerry Buss Collection (Superior, 1/1985), lot 1766; G. Lee Kuntz Collection (Superior, 10/1991), lot 3389.
4. PR65 PCGS. Will Neil Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1947), lot 2603 (part of a complete set of stellas; Grant Pierce; ANA Convention Sale (Stack's, 8/1976), lot 2920 (as part of a complete set); May Auction (Superior, 5/1991), lot 1374.
5. PR65 PCGS. Memorable Sale (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 280; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 7/1997), lot 359; Spectrum Numismatics.
6. Gem Brilliant Proof. Golden Jubilee Sale (B. Max Mehl, 5/1950), lot 243, part of a set; Amon Carter, Sr.; Amon Carter, Jr.; Carter Collection (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 632, part of a set.
7. Gem Brilliant Proof. Rio Rancho Estate (Superior, 10/1974), lot 133; Lighthouse Collection (Stack's, 6/1978), lot 828; Ed Trompeter; Trompeter Collection (Superior, 2/1992), lot 134; Orlando Sale (Superior, 8/1992), lot 598; 60th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/1995), lot 1547.
8. Gem Brilliant Proof. Dr. John E. Wilkison, part of a set; Jeff Browning; Dallas Bank Collection (Sotheby's-Stack's, 10/2001), lot 361, part of a set.
9. PR64 Cameo PCGS. ANA National Money Show (Stack's Bowers, 5/2013), lot 1294, plate does not seem to match any other specimen realized $646,000.
10. PR63 NGC. Stack's Fixed Price List, Summer 1997, page 57 as part of a complete set; Americana Sale (Stack's, 1/1998), lot 1498, part of a set; Richmond Collection (David Lawrence, 7/2004), lot 1304, part of a set; Denver Signature (Heritage, 8/2006), lot 5468.
11. PR63 NGC. Armand Champa Sale (Bowers and Ruddy, 5/1972), lot 521; S. Hallock du Pont Collection (Sotheby's, 9/1982), lot 250; Coles Collection (Stack's, 10/1983), lot 57; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 8/1995), lot 307; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 9/1998), lot 7105; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2005), lot 30040; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 3488; Pre-Long Beach Sale (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 5/2007), lot 1551; Pre-Long Beach Sale (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 2/2009), lot 1433.
12. PR63 NGC. King Farouk; Palace Collections of Egypt (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 322; Gaston DiBello Collection (Stack's, 5/1970), lot 796; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 1/2000), lot 350; Public Auction Sale (Stack's, 3/1999), lot 134; Atlanta Signature (Heritage, 8/2001), lot 7750.
13. PR66. Josiah K. Lilly; Smithsonian Institution, grade per Garrett and Guth.
A. Brilliant Proof. John Colvin Randall Collection (George Cogan, 3/1882), lot 631, part of a Goloid set.
B. Proof. George Woodside Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 4/1892), lot 346.
C. Proof. Harlan Page Smith Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 5/1906), lot 1445.
D. Proof. A coin sold to DeWitt Smith by H.P. Smith, mentioned by Henry Chapman in his Smith Collection catalog in C above. Possibly sold to Virgil Brand.
E. Proof. John Story Jenks Collection (Henry Chapman, 12/1921), lot 5682.
F. Brilliant Proof. William Forrester Dunham Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1941), lot 2063.
G. Brilliant Proof. Albert H. Grinnell Collection (Mehl, 6/1943), lot 185.
H. Brilliant Proof. Fred E. Olsen Collection (Mehl, 11/1944), lot 614.
I. Brilliant Proof. Pennsylvania Sale (Hollinbeck, 2/1947), lot 2533.
J. Brilliant Gem Proof. J.W. Schmandt Collection (Stack's, 2/1957), lot 219.
K. Proof. Public Auction Sale (Kreisberg-Schulman, 2/1961), lot 1150, part of a set of stellas.
L. Brilliant Gem Proof. Golden Sale, Part II (Kreisberg-Schulman, 1/1963), lot 1938, part of a set of stellas.
M. Gem Proof. Public Coin Auction (Quality Sales, 9/1973), lot 1154.(Registry values: P3) (NGC ID# 28B2, PCGS# 8058)
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