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    Description

    1879 Flowing Hair Stella, PR63 Cameo
    Starkly Contrasted
    Bright Yellow-Gold Color, Judd-1635

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR63 Cameo NGC. The United States Mint had had its fair share of failed denominations by the time it was considering an all-new four dollar gold coin. Since its founding in 1792, the Mint had already created and abolished the half cent, half dime, two cent, three cent silver, twenty cent, and Trade dollar. By 1889 it would also abolish the three cent nickel, gold dollar, and the three dollar gold piece. But for a brief period between 1878 and 1880 there was some discussion about the usefulness of a four dollar gold coin within an entirely new system of metric coinage.

    The idea for a four dollar gold piece originated as an idea for a coin of equal value to the standard gold coins of the Latin Monetary Union, suggested by the American ambassador in Austria-Hungary, John A. Kasson. However, it was an enterprising Pennsylvanian polymath, Dr. William Wheeler Hubbell, who, in the midst of lobbying for a new system of metric and goloid coinage, proposed this four dollar gold pattern. Hubbell was something of a snake oil salesman, a self-described expert who, despite having many deeply flawed ideas, garnered the highest praise and admiration of Representative Alexander H. Stephens, the chairman of the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures. Stephens wrote to Treasury Secretary Sherman in February 1879, stating that he found Dr. Hubbell "to be the profoundest expert on such subjects [coinage and metallurgy] I ever met with ... ." It shows just how little the chairman himself understood the matters at hand.

    With Rep. Stephens forcefully pushing his agenda, Hubbell was able to have the Mint produce a host of coinage patterns, including a series of four dollar stellas. Two obverse designs were created, one with a Flowing Hair portrait and the other with a Coiled Hair motif. Hubbell dictated the reverse design elements, which were then modeled by Charles Barber. The reverse, unique to this set of patterns, is highly admired among collectors. It features a large pentagonal star at the center with ONE STELLA / 400 CENTS incused and the motto DEO EST GLORIA below.

    It is believed that 425 1879 Flowing Hair stellas were issued in three-coin sets along with Metric dollars and Goloid dollars. Sets could be purchased by congressmen for $6.10. Collectors later had the chance to purchase the remaining sets for $15. The stella never came to pass as an authorized denomination. However, these patterns are eagerly sought-after and considered among regular issues. This particular stella displays deeply reflective proof fields and bright yellow-gold color. The strike is sharply detailed, except of course in the center of the obverse where the always-encountered striations are seen.
    From The HBC Collection. (Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 28B2, PCGS# 88057)

    Weight: 7.00 grams

    Metal: 86% Gold, 4% Silver, 10% Copper


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

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    9th-14th Wednesday-Monday
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