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1879 Flowing Hair Stella, PR66 Cameo
One of the Finest of This Popular, Experimental Coin

1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR66 Cameo NGC. The stellas might have succeeded had they not tried to be too many things to too many people.
The idea of an international coinage was not a new one in 1879, when the Hon. John A. Kasson began his support for the idea of the stella, to approximate the value of several currently circulating European currencies, including those of France, Austria, Spain, Italy, and Holland. The 1874 Bickford gold eagle, Judd-1373, was one earlier experiment that expressed its denomination in dollars as well as several other foreign currencies. The stella's first major drawback can be imputed from the arcane inscription encircling the obverse rim, one that spells out (to the informed) its metallic composition. The stella failed in part because it got entangled with the eccentric notions propounded by Dr. Hubbell. Walter Breen writes in the Proof Encyclopedia:

"Perhaps unfortunately, it [the stella] in some way became tied up with the 'metric' gold alloy proposed by one of the Mint's perennial hangers-on, Dr. Wheeler H. Hubbell. This called for 60 parts gold, 3 parts silver, 7 parts copper per 70 parts total composition -- amounting to 5% debasement (offset by overweight) in the vain hope of stabilizing the world market ratio between gold and silver (something no coinage whatever could do, as it depends wholly on the available supplies of those metals and market manipulations thereof). The proposal might have become law had it not been conjoined to the Hubbell alloy."

The "5% debasement" Breen refers to is that a standard 90% fine gold coin would have been 63 out of 70 units pure gold, while a stella was about 85.7% (60 parts out of 70) gold. The 1879 Flowing Hair stella was the only one of the four stella issues that appears to have been circulated freely before Congressmen formed their opinions and evaluations. The other three stella issues were all clandestinely produced Mint delicacies, members of a long string of such sweetmeats that emanated from the Mint during this timeframe. It is the relative availability of the 1879 Flowing Hair compared to the other three issues -- all extremely rare -- that has made it so popular.
This is among the finest known of the 400 or so estimated to have been struck. The surfaces are bright yellow gold with heavily frosted devices. This frost contrasts markedly against the depth of mirroring in the proof fields. Close examination reveals a few tiny contact marks, but none are apparent without magnification. The always-seen diagonal die striations or roller marks are evident on the central devices on each side. Census: 19 in 66 Cameo, 7 finer (11/12).
From The Victoria Rose Collection.(Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 28B2, PCGS# 88057)

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Auction Dates
January, 2013
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 10
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