1880 Flowing Hair Stella, PR66
1880 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1657, Pollock-1857, R.6, PR66
NGC. 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
Rare Judd-1657, Pollock-1857
Only 15-20 Examples Known
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 Premium 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. Of the 10 non-Cameo coins NGC has graded, this specimen is the second finest, behind a single PR67 example (12/12). This coin has been off the market for nearly five years, and a similar time interval may pass before a comparable example becomes available.
The following roster is by no means complete, as early auction appearances, and some in modern times, are impossible to match with the primary pedigree chains, due to poor quality images, terse descriptions, and the general lack of pedigree identifiers on the individual coins. A list of some earlier appearances is available on USPatterns.com.
Roster of 1880 Flowing Hair Stellas:
1. PR66 NGC. Will Neil Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1947), lot 2604, 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; Western Collection (Stack's, 12/1981), lot 1138, realized $41,000; Summer FUN Signature (Heritage, 6/2008), lot 1960, realized $431,250; the present coin.(Registry values: P2) (NGC ID# 2AJG, PCGS# 8059)
2. PR64 PCGS. Jerome Kern; Golden Jubilee Sale (B. Max Mehl, 5/1950), lot 244; Amon Carter, Sr.; Amon Carter, Jr. (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 633, realized $68,750; Ed Trompeter Collection (Superior, 2/1992), lot 135, realized $77,000; Somerset Collection (Bowers and Merena, 5/1992), lot 1470, realized $39,050; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 9/1998), lot 7106, realized $103,500; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2001), lot 8171, realized $94,875.
3. Gem Brilliant Proof. Massachusetts Historical Society (Stack's, 10/1970), lot 807, realized $13,000; Stack's FPL summer 1997, offered as part of a four-piece set for $875,000; Americana Sale (Stack's, 1/1998), lot 1498, still part of the set, unsold.
4. Gem Brilliant Proof. Winner F. Delp Collection (Stack's, 11/1972), lot 791, realized $17,000.
5. PR65 NGC. 1974 ANA (Paramount , 8/1974), lot 873, realized $40,000; Gold Rush Collection (Heritage, 1/2005), lot 30043, realized $264,500.
6. PR65 NGC. Rio Rancho Collection (Superior , 10/1974), lot 134, realized $35,000; Auction '79 (Stack's, 7/1979), lot 801, realized $50,000; Auction '80 (Superior, 8/1980), lot 386, realized $105,000; Blevins/Bodway Collections (Superior, 6/1988), lot 6731, realized $84,700; Chris Schenkel Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1990), lot 508, realized $231,000; Long Beach Signature (Heritage 2/1995), lot 5837, realized $77,000.
7. Brilliant Proof. Winthrop Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 9/1975), lot 583, realized $31,000; Gainsborough (Abner Kreisberg, 9/1980), lot 1275, realized $52,000.
8. PR65 NGC. John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part I (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1979), lot 432, realized $65,000; Jascha Heifetz Collection (Superior, 10/1989), lot 4297, realized $297,000; Swan/Sweet Collections (Bowers and Merena, 3/2004), lot 2621, realized $310,000; Dallas Signature (Heritage, 11/2006), lot 2153, realized $287,500; Dallas Signature (Heritage, 4/2007), lot 1694, realized $316,250; Husky Collection (Stack's, 6/2008), lot 2051.
9. Choice Brilliant Proof. Possibly Belden Roach Collection (B. Max Mehl, 2/1944), lot 803; Auction '80 (Stack's, 8/1980), lot 1451, realized $65,000.
10. PR65+. S. Hallock DuPont Collection (Sotheby's, 9/1982), lot 251; Charles Kramer Collection (Stack's/Superior, 11/1988), lot 285, realized $72,600.
11. PR67. Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; United States Gold Coin Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 318, realized $55,000.
12. PR65 PCGS. Auction '84 (RARCOA, 7/1984), lot 1913, realized $61,600; Chicago Sale (Rarcoa, 8/1991), lot 967, realized $96,250.
13. PR65 NGC. Sherwood Boyd; Greater New York Convention Sale (Stack's, 5/1985), lot 1343, realized $63,250; Dr. Jack Adams Collection (Superior, 5/1992), realized $91,850.
14. Brilliant Proof. Auction '89 (Stack's, 7/1989), lot 1930, realized $72,600.
15. PR63 PCGS. October Sale (Superior 10/1990), lot 2074, realized $71,500; Gainsborough II Sale (Superior, 2/1997), lot 2907.
16. PR63 NGC. J.F. Bell (Jacob Shapiro); Memorable Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 281; United States Gold, Silver & Copper Coins (Stack's, 3/1999), lot 135; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 1/2000), lot 351, realized $86,250.
17. PR65. Josiah K. Lilly; National Numismatic Collection, grade per Garrett and Guth.
18. Gem Brilliant Proof. Dr. John E. Wilkison; Jeff Browning; Dallas Bank Collection (Stack's/Sotheby's, 10/2001), lot 362.
19. Gem Brilliant Proof. Samuel McVitty Collection (B. Max Mehl, 3/1938), lot 325; Floyd T. Starr; 65th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2000), lot 1716.
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