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1879 Flowing Hair Stella, PR63
One of the Most Popular of All U.S. Type Coins

1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR63 PCGS. The 1879 Flowing Hair stella is one of the most classic and revered gold rarities in the entire U.S. numismatic series. All four of the 1879-1880 stella issues are patterns in the strict technical sense, a more-or-less-hairbrained numismatic experiment doomed to failure from the outset. But the 1879 Flowing Hair stellas are a special case, with much larger mintages than the three other types and fervidly sought alongside regular-issue U.S. coins by gold type collectors
The 1879 Flowing Hair stellas were produced in an unknown quantity that numbers at least several hundred pieces. For long years the story has circulated that there were 15 "originals" made in 1879 that lack planchet striations on Liberty's head. This was supposedly followed by a second, much larger restrike quantity in 1880 -- perhaps 400-700 pieces in all -- with those coins showing the planchet striations. As far as we can determine today, the story about the 15 originals has no basis in fact. The latest (10th) edition of the Judd pattern reference diplomatically states, "All gold impressions seen have parallel planchet striations near the top of the hair." Our experience is the same, and we have handled quite a few 1879 Flowing Hair stellas over the years: All show planchet striations on one or both sides, which we believe can be traced to the cut-down, thinner half eagle planchets used in the manufacture of these experimental coins. (The ultimate test would be metallurgical assay tests proving that stellas exist in the nominal metric alloy and weight claimed on the obverse, seven grams total weight that is six-sevenths gold, with the remaining one-seventh alloy that is three-tenths silver and seven-tenths copper. Such coins would almost certainly have to lack planchet striations, as they could not be made from cut-down planchets made of the 90/10 gold/copper standard alloy of federal gold coinage.)
This piece certainly displays the ubiquitous die striations. They are light on the obverse and remarkably strong over the star ("stella") on the reverse. The fields are moderately reflective, and unlike many stellas, there is minimal contrast between the fields and devices. The only two distinctive contact marks are in the lower left obverse field to the left of Liberty's neck.(Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 28AZ, PCGS# 8057)

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Auction Dates
Apr-May, 2011
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 9
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