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1879 $4 PR63 Cameo PCGS Secure. CAC. Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3....

2011 June Long Beach Signature US Coin Auction #1156

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Auction Ended On: Jun 3, 2011
Item Activity: 14 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Long Beach Convention Center
100 S. Pine Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90802

Legendary 1879 Flowing Hair Stella
Judd-1635 in Gold, PR63 Cameo
1879 $4 PR63 Cameo PCGS Secure. CAC. Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3. It is interesting to contrast the stories of the origin of the 1879 Flowing Hair stellas as recounted by the foremost references on pattern issues, Judd and Pollock. The Andrew Pollock III pattern reference (1994), citing research by Robert Julian in The Numismatist, November 1987, claims that 25 "original" examples of the 1879 Flowing Hair were struck for distribution to Congress, included in three-piece sets with the 1879 metric dollar (Judd-1617/1618) and the 1879 goloid dollar (Judd-1626/1627). The Judd numbers for the metric and goloid dollars depend on the actual metallurgical content, which can only be determined by sophisticated assay measurements.
Pollock writes, "... because of strong demand in Congress, an additional four hundred sets were issued in early 1880" at the Mint's cost of $6.10. He adds, "It is believed that many of these restrike sets contained metric dollars and goloid dollars struck in standard 0.900 fine silver rather than in metric alloy or goloid alloy. In addition to the 425 supplied to Congress, it has been conjectured that a few other sets may have been produced for Mint officers." Under the actual listing for 1879 Flowing Hair stellas produced in metric alloy, Pollock-1832, Pollock cites Don Taxay, who "reports in his Comprehensive Catalogue that the original pieces were coined in metric alloy, whereas the remaining four hundred were produced in standard gold alloy, variety [1833]."
The Judd pattern reference lumps the "original" and "restrike" gold 1879 Flowing Hair stellas under the Judd-1635 number, framing the striking of the 1879-dated stellas in this way:

"It was announced by someone, perhaps a Mint official, that 15 of the 1879 Flowing Hair $4 Stellas were struck, these as patterns, but there was a sufficient demand for them that a few hundred more were struck for congressmen, who are allowed to acquire them for $6.50 each. This was an era of great secrecy at the Mint, and virtually the entire pattern coinage of 1879, including the 'Washlady' and Schoolgirl silver coins, were produced for the private profit of Mint officials. These were not given to congressmen or openly sold to collectors at the time, and, indeed, for many issues, their very existence was not disclosed. Collectors learned of them years later, and at the time were only able to piece together information as no facts are known to have been recorded. There was furor concerning the 1879 Flowing Hair Stella, and dealer S.K. Harzfeld, for one, sought to find about it. This and other efforts led to certain pieces being available to the numismatic fraternity."

The story of the 1879 stellas nonetheless seems to be based on rumor and copying older references. All 1879 Flowing Hair stellas seen appear to have been struck on planchets made of standard .900 fine coin gold intended for five dollar coins, shaved down to 80% of their original thickness, which accounts for the striations seen on all examples, including this Cameo Select specimen.
The striated devices are lightly but appreciably frosted, creating distinct contrast with the yellow-gold mirrors. Though the field show a number of light but ultimately grade-defining hairlines, the overall eye appeal is strong, especially in the context of the grade, and this is a great coin for the collector who wants a fundamentally pleasing example of the legendary 1879 Flowing Hair stella. Population: 7 in 63 Cameo, 38 finer (4/11).(Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 28AZ, PCGS# 88057)

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