The Kern-Carter 1880 Coiled Hair Stella, PR621880 $4 Coiled Hair, Judd-1660, Pollock-1860, R.7, PR62 NGC. The Morgan design. Obverse: Head of Liberty faces left, her hair coiled in a bun atop her head, this coil held in place by a band inscribed LIBERTY. Around, the inscription * 6 * G * .3 * S * .7 * C * 7 * G * R * A * M * S * and below, the date 1880 is from a curved logotype. Evidence of repunching is visible in the upper loop of the second 8 in the date. Reverse: A single large star serves as the central motif, inscribed with incuse lettering ONE STELLA 400 CENTS. Around, in small letters, are the mottoes E PLURIBUS UNUM and DEO EST GLORIA. In large letters, around the border, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA above, and the denomination FOUR DOL. below. Struck in gold with a reeded edge. The D in UNITED is clearly doubled above, as it is on all four dollar gold pieces that we have seen from 1879 and 1880.
George T. Morgan accepted an invitation from Mint Director Henry Linderman to join the staff as assistant engraver in 1876. Earlier he studied at the Birmingham Art School and the South Kensington Art School before taking a position with the Royal Mint in London. At the Philadelphia mint, he worked under Engraver William Barber and later, his son, Charles Barber. Remaining at the Mint until his death nearly 50 years later in 1925, Morgan remained the assistant engraver until his promotion to engraver after Charles Barber died in 1917. There is little doubt that Morgan was more talented than Charles Barber, and there is also little doubt that Barber was jealous of Morgan's talent. Today, Morgan is best known for his Liberty silver dollar that now popularly carries his name, the Morgan dollar. He also created numerous pattern designs, and prepared other designs for the medal department.
This attractive proof has a faint green tint to the yellow gold. The fields are fully mirrored with slight field/device contrast on both sides. Both sides have diagonal striations up to the left on the obverse and up to the right on the reverse, in the same direction on both sides when the coin orientation is considered. Those striae result from the original planchet manufacturing process. Standard half eagle planchet strip was reduced to 80% thickness in the Mint's rolling mills and drawing bench, then planchets were cut using the standard half eagle planchet cutter. It was the process of rolling and drawing the planchet stock that left parallel striations on the planchet strip. We have never seen a gold Stella without the striae, although on some it is extremely faint.
The 1880 Coiled Hair issue is clearly the rarest of four varieties. In past rosters, we have only been able to account for eight different examples, but have now added a ninth example from the Dallas Bank Collection. For many years it was believed that just 10 pieces were struck, but it is more likely that 20 pieces were originally coined. A general rule for proof gold pieces from the mid to late 1800s is that approximately half the original mintage survives. Like the 1879 Coiled Hair and 1880 Flowing Hair coins, the 1880 Coiled Hair is a major rarity from an extremely small mintage. Only the 1879 Flowing Hair Stella could be called anything close to common, and that is the issue most often chosen by type collectors who want a single example of the Stella. Of course, advanced specialists will want all four varieties, and are advised to take advantage of this offering.
Roster of 1880 Coiled Hair Stella:
1. DuPont Specimen. Proof-66 (PCGS). Sotheby's (9/1982), lot 252, $102,300; Superior (8/1991), lot 707 $440,000.
2. Delp Specimen. PR66 Cameo NGC. Stack's (11/1972), lot 792 $35,000; Stack's (Summer 1997 FPL) offered as part of a four piece set for $875,000; Heritage (1/2005), lot 30444, $977,500.
3. Trompeter Specimen. Gem Brilliant Proof. B. Max Mehl (6/1947), lot 2603 sold as part of a set for $3,850; Grant Pierce; 1976 ANA (Stack's, 8/1976), lot 2920 sold as part of a set for $225,000; Stack's (12/1981), lot 1139, $135,000; Ed Trompeter Collection (Superior, 2/1992), lot 136 $264,000; Superior (8/1992), lot 599; Stack's (10/1995), lot 1548, $308,000.
4. Eliasberg Specimen. Proof-65. Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Louis E. Eliasberg, Jr. (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 319 $99,000; Holecek Family Trust (Stack's, 10/2000), lot 1625.
5. Memorable Specimen. Proof-64 (NGC). J.F. Bell Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 282; Stack's (3/1999), lot 136; Bowers and Merena (1/2000), lot 352.
6. Kern Specimen. PR62 NGC. The present specimen. B. Max Mehl (5/1950), lot 245 sold as part of a set for $4,100; Amon Carter, Sr.; Amon Carter, Jr. (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 634 $72,250; Richmond Collection (David Lawrence, 7/2004), lot 1306; Superior (7/2005), lot 425.
7. Davies Specimen. PR61 NGC. Paramount (2/1975), lot 547 $67,500; Bowers and Ruddy Rare Coin Review #26, p. 64; Heritage (1/2000), lot 7519; Bowers and Merena (3/2004), lot 2620.
8. Dallas Bank. Impaired Proof. The Dallas Bank Collection (Sotheby's and Stack's, 10/2000), lot 363.
9. Lilly Specimen. Smithsonian Institution.
From The Omaha Collection.(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 7KNB, PCGS# 8060)
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