1880 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1657, Pollock-1857, R.6, PR64 PCGS....
Rare 1880 Flowing Hair Stella, Judd-1657, Pollock-1857, PR641880 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1657, Pollock-1857, R.6, PR64 PCGS. The 1880 Flowing Hair stella is one of the most famous rarities in American numismatics. Technically a pattern issue, and one that was never authorized for regular coinage, the stella has survived and prospered as a collectible issue, and is regularly featured in numismatic publications such as A Guide Book of United States Coins, alongside regular U.S. gold coin types.
The stella or four dollar gold piece was not well known until it was publicized by Edgar H. Adams in the early 20th century. Fortunately, several hundred pieces had survived, despite their gold content and lack of previous numismatic attention. Most of the survivors (and most of those originally produced) are of the 1879 Flowing Hair type, which may have had a total mintage of 700 coins or more, although not all of them were made at the same time. The 1879 Flowing Hair production was followed by the much smaller mintage of 1880 Flowing Hair stellas, which was probably no more than 25 examples; only 15 to 20 of those coins are currently known to exist. Stellas were also made in 1879 and 1880 of a different design known as the Coiled Hair variety. The Coiled Hair stellas are all rare, with around 10 to 12 examples known from each of the two years mentioned.
The current offering is a lovely near-Gem example that any collector would be proud to own. It was previously sold as part of a complete set of all four stella varieties; first by B. Max Mehl in 1947, and later by Stack's as part of their 1976 ANA auction (see pedigree data below). The coin is well struck with watery reflectivity in the fields, and shows even honey-gold coloration across both sides. The reverse has a prominent stain on the E of ONE and a dot (probably a tiny planchet flaw) below M of UNUM, which serve as definitive pedigree markers. A few wispy lines and pin marks, restricted to the field areas on each side, are all that keep this important and rare coin from an even finer grade assessment.
Roster of 1880 Flowing Hair Stellas:
1. Neil Specimen. Gem Brilliant Proof. B. Max Mehl (6/1947), lot 2603 sold as part of a set for $3,850; Grant Pierce (Stack's, 1976 ANA), lot 2920 sold as part of a set for $225,000; Stack's (12/1981), lot 1138 $41,000.
(The current specimen.)
2. Trompeter Specimen. PR64 (PCGS). B. Max Mehl (1950), lot 244; Amon Carter, Sr.; Amon Carter, Jr. (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 633 $68,750; Ed Trompeter Collection (Superior, 2/25/1992), lot 135 $77,000; Bowers and Merena (5/1992), lot 1470 $39,050; Heritage (9/1998), lot 7106.
3. Massachusetts Historical Society Specimen. Gem Brilliant Proof. Stack's (10/1970), lot 807; Stack's FPL Summer 1997 offered as part of a four piece set for $875,000.
4. Delp Specimen. Gem Brilliant Proof. Stack's (11/1972), lot 791 $17,000.
5. Paramount Specimen. Gem Proof. Paramount (1974 ANA), lot 873 $40,000.
6. Rio Rancho Specimen. PR65 (NGC). Superior (10/1974), lot 134 $35,000; Auction '79, lot 801 $50,000; Auction '80, lot 386 $105,000; Superior (6/1988), lot 6731 $84,700; Heritage 2/1995, lot 5837 $77,000.
7. Winthrop Specimen. Brilliant Proof. Bowers and Ruddy (9/1975), lot 583 $31,000; Abner Kreisberg (9/1980), lot 1275 $52,000.
8. Garrett Specimen. PR65 (PCGS). Johns Hopkins University (Bowers and Ruddy 11/1979), lot 432 $65,000; Superior (10/1989), lot 4297 $297,000; Bowers and Merena (3/2004), lot 2621 $310,000; Dallas Signature Auction (Heritage, 11/2006), lot 2153 $287,500; Dallas Signature Auction (Heritage, 4/9/2007), lot 1694 $316,250.
9. Mehl Specimen. Choice Brilliant Proof. B. Max Mehl, unidentified sale, lot 863; Auction '80, lot 1451 $65,000.
It is possible that the notation in the description for Auction '80 was a misprint for lot 803 in a Mehl sale, which would suggest that this is the coin from Mehl's 1944 sale of the Roach collection.
10. DuPont Specimen. PR65+. (Sotheby's, 9/1982), lot 251; Stack's-Superior (12/1988), lot 285 $72,600.
11. Eliasberg Specimen. PR67. Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Louis E. Eliasberg, Jr. (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 318 $55,000.
12. Auction '84 Specimen. PR65 (PCGS). Auction '84, lot 1913 $61,600; Rarcoa (8/1991), lot 967 $96,250.
13. Boyd Specimen. PR65 (NGC). Stack's (5/1985), lot 1343 $63,250; Superior (5/1992) $91,850.
14. Auction '89 Specimen. Brilliant Proof.
Auction '89, lot 1930. $72,600.
15. Superior October 1990 Specimen. PR63 (PCGS).
Superior 10/1990, lot 2074 $71,500.
16. Memorable Specimen. PR63 (NGC).
J.F. Bell Collection (Stack's, 3/1948), lot 281; Stack's (1999), lot 135; Rarities Sale (1/2000), lot 351 $86,250.
17. Smithsonian Specimen.
National Numismatic Collection.
From the Fern E. Wagner Trust.(Registry values: P2) (NGC ID# 28B3, PCGS# 8059)
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