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1879 Flowing Hair Stella, PR64
A Conservatively Graded Example of
This Popular Experimental Gold Coin

1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR64 PCGS. CAC. Prior to the official adoption of the euro, any traveler in Western Europe would have had a similar experience in exchanging the currencies of those nations, during the time when the euro had been officially adopted as an accounting currency but not yet launched as a circulating medium.
The traveler was likely to pile up a hefty pocket (or purse) full of Dutch guilder, Italian lire, British and Irish pounds, German marks, Swiss and French francs, and fractional equivalents thereof. The shiny new Italian 10- and 20-lire coins were attractive but worth next to nothing -- especially with the costs of currency exchanges tacked on. The story was the same for the other nations' fractional currencies, nicer saved (if one is a coin collector) than exchanged at another loss. The elegant French 1999 one franc coins featured La Semeuse, the sower. Elizabeth II gazed out from the obverse of the British pounds, with the Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, and Royal Arms reverses to distinguish them. The Swiss Helvetia coins were simple and dignified, with classic beauty.
Building up a nifty collection of modern European coins was easy, and often inevitable. On tight timetables, perhaps with no car, business travelers would be forced to do all currency exchanges at airports -- first from dollars to Dutch guilder if arriving in Amsterdam, then on to pounds in the United Kingdom, to Swiss or French francs, Italian lire, German marks, Spanish pesetas, on and on the merry-go-round of currency exchanges would go. Each border crossing would create a small pile of leftover small-denomination bills and coins, since none of the exchanges were exact. Striving to maintain intelligible records of how much was spent on business and how much was lost in each mandatory exchange became a near-impossibility.
For centuries until the phased introduction of the circulating euro coins and notes between 1999 and 2002, it was little different for travelers from one European country to another. While the common euro currency at least has solved the cross-border exchange problem within the Euro Zone, the euro today, of course, fluctuates against other countries -- sometimes violently so, given the recent European sovereign debt crisis.
The stellas in theory were a purported solution to such dilemmas by introducing an international currency. But in practice, they were fraught with their own problems. They were an effort to produce a currency that would exactly equal a set amount in several other established European denominations. However, those values fluctuated against each other and against any other relative measures, just as currencies do now. The stella's only success was in equaling none of them. It also faced the added challenge of being little different from the U.S. five dollar gold coin, which was well established as a tool of international commerce.
The first-generation holder that encases this piece gives no indication of the considerable contrast between the deeply mirrored fields and the frosted devices. At the time this coin was certified, no thought was given to Cameo designation except for Morgan dollars. The surfaces on each side have pronounced reddish-gold color with occasional dashes of lilac interspersed. The shallow striations that are always seen on the figure of Liberty are light and run vertically on this piece. This conservatively graded stella should see considerable interest from bidders and collectors interested in this 19th century experiment in standardized coinage.(Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 28AZ, PCGS# 8057)

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Auction Dates
Apr-May, 2011
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 10
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