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    1879 Stella in Copper
    Judd-1636, PR66 Brown
    Ex: Eliasberg

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair Four Dollar, Judd-1636, Pollock-1834, Low R.7, PR66 Brown PCGS. Ex: Eliasberg. In an effort to provide yet another outlet for the vast quantities of silver being mined in the western United States, John Adam Kasson proposed a four dollar gold piece, or stella, which would be struck in a metric alloy containing 10% silver. The stella was also one in a long line of ultimately futile attempts to create an international monetary unit. Kasson believed that the stella would be readily accepted in Europe as well as the United States because its value approximated those of the Spanish 20 peseta, Dutch 8 florin, Austrian 8 florin, Italian 20 lire, and French 20 franc.

    Enthusiastically responding to Kasson's proposal, Alexander H. Stephens, Chairman of the Committee of Coinage, Weights, and Measures, requested that the Mint supply Congress with several patterns of Kasson's proposed stella. These presentation pieces were struck in gold (allegedly in metric alloy) using a design created by Charles E. Barber. The obverse depicts a head of Liberty facing left with flowing hair and a coronet inscribed LIBERTY. The inscription * 6 * G * .3 * S * .7 * C * 7 * G * R * A * M * S * is around the periphery, and the date 1879 is below. The denomination ONE STELLA 400 CENTS is inscribed on a five-pointed star in the center of the reverse. The mottoes E PLURIBUS UNUM and DEO EST GLORIA are around the star, and the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and another rendition of the denomination FOUR DOL. are around the periphery.

    Before producing the 25 gold examples of the 1879 Flowing Hair stella that were ultimately sent to Congressional leaders, the Mint apparently struck a few coins in copper as trial pieces. All of these coins have reeded edges, and a few have been gilt. According to "over a dozen are believed to be known." This piece has lovely subdued iridescence. It qualifies as Brown for certain, but there is also a significant presence of deep red and blue over each side. The fields are brightly reflective and enliven the deeply patinated surfaces. A major rarity in this interesting and short-lived four dollar denomination.
    From the Chapman Brothers (4/1897); J.M. Clapp; Clapp Estate; Clapp Estate to Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr., 1942; Eliasberg Collection, Part One (Bowers and Merena, 5/1996), lot 310. (NGC ID# 2AHP, PCGS# 62014)

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

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