The Garrett Collection Gem Proof 1880 Flowing Hair Stella1880 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1657, Pollock-1857, R.6, PR65 PCGS. Modern day Europe has an international coinage system known as the euro, accepted in 12 European countries without the need to exchange currency after crossing a national border. The website of the European Union, http://ec.europa.eu, tells more: "History was made on 1st January 1999 when eleven European Union countries (later to become twelve) irrevocably established the conversion rates between their respective national currencies and the euro and created a monetary union with a single currency, giving birth to the euro."
Although the history of the euro dates back for many years, its concept is even older, dating back at least to the international coinage proposals of the 19th century. Patterns for three different international coinage systems were produced: the 1868 dual denomination five dollar-25 franc coin, the 1874 Bickford International ten dollar coin, and the stella project of 1879 and 1880. The stella coinage is discussed by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth as one of the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins:
"Beginning in the 1870s, several countries advocated the establishment of a universal coin that would correlate to several international currencies. A few efforts were made early in the decade, hence coins such as the 1874 Bickford Pattern eagles were produced, but the most serious attempts came in 1879. That year, America's minister to Austria, John A. Kasson, proposed a four dollar gold coin with a metallic content stated in the metric system, making it easier for Europeans to use. Per Kasson's proposal, this new coin would approximate in value the Spanish 20 peseta, Dutch 8 florin, Austrian 8 florin, Italian 20 lire, and French 20 franc piece, among other denominations. The purpose of the $4 gold coin was to facilitate international trade and travel for Americans--the same motivation behind the 1874 Bickford eagle and other gold patterns."
Unlike the earlier proposals, the stella project went far enough that Congress ordered a substantial run of patterns for two years, including the quintuple stella or metric $20 pattern. Garrett and Guth explain:
"Congress became interested enough in Kasson's suggestion to order the Mint to produce a limited run of the four dollar gold pieces so that Congressmen could review the coins. Soon thereafter, Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber prepared an obverse design that depicted a portrait of Liberty facing left with long, Flowing Hair. Meanwhile, George Morgan created a motif featuring a portrait with Coiled Hair."
"The 1879 Flowing Hair stella is the most available of the four known varieties, as this was the version produced for Congress. Although 425 pieces were supposedly struck, it is likely that as many as 725 were minted in total. One numismatic legend states that most Congressman gave their 'stellas' to mistresses as gifts, which would explain the large number of ex-jewelry specimens known today. The other three varieties, the 1879 Coiled Hair, the 1880 Flowing Hair, and the 1880 Coiled Hair are all significantly more rare."
This example is a lovely Gem proof with rich honey-gold color and faint blue toning on the obverse device. Both sides have excellent cameo contrast, although this example has not been given a cameo designation. A few wispy hairlines and faint planchet flakes can be seen only with the most careful examination. The obverse has a faint orange toning spot inside the lower loop of the final S and a few other tiny spots that may aid in pedigree research. Estimates of the number known range between 15 and 20 coins, and we believe that this example is one of the five finest of those coins.
Ex: Garrett Collection; Johns Hopkins University (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1979), lot 432; Superior (10/1989), lot 4297; Bowers and Merena (3/2004), lot 2621.
From The Blowing Rock Collection.(Registry values: P2) (NGC ID# 2AJG, PCGS# 8059)
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