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    1879 Flowing Hair Gold Stella, Judd-1635, PR61

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR61 NGC.
    The Charles Barber design. On the obverse the head of Liberty, hair flowing down below her neck, faces left, with the inscription (each character separated by stars) 6 G .3 S .7 C 7 G R A M S around the rim. She wears a coronet bearing the word LIBERTY, and the date 1879 is below. On the reverse a five-pointed star occupies the center, bearing the legend ONE STELLA / 400 CENTS. In an inner circle are E PLURIBUS UNUM and DEO EST GLORIA ("God is glory"), with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and FOUR DOL. around the outer rim. Struck in gold (standard alloy, despite the inscription) with a reeded edge.

    The 1879 Flowing Hair stella is not only the most popular and widely collected pattern issue--except possibly the 1856 Flying Eagle cent, with which it shares a sizeable number of similarities--but it also has assumed an iconic status among U.S. gold issues that borders on the legendary. Of the Top 250 Auction Prices as published in the 2009 Guide Book, stellas, including all four of the gold pattern types, established 17 of those records.

    The story of the stellas makes the most sense when viewed in the greater context of the "goloid" (combinations of gold and silver, alloyed with copper) proposed metallic composition proposed by William Wheeler Hubbell and the "metric" proposals for coinage, those that incorporated even metric weights in grams with the value of international currencies such as the French five francs. As Bowers writes cogently in the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Museum Sylloge:

    "Many different dollar patterns were produced [in 1878], some in regular silver alloy (90% silver and 10% copper), and others in the special goloid metric alloy. The theory was that goloid, which contained a small part of gold added to silver and copper, would permit a coin of smaller weight and diameter while maintaining the same intrinsic value as a large coin in regular alloy (90% silver and 10% copper). However, the idea failed as only sophisticated elemental analysis could differentiate the goloid alloy in struck coins, and counterfeiters could make such pieces in cheaper silver alloy and few would know the difference."

    One could well call the stellas "goloid gold four dollars" to accompany the "goloid silver one dollars"; in terms of their proposed (or purported) chemical composition, they are the converse of the silver pieces. The goloid metric dollars continued to be struck in many different designs in 1879, and the Judd-1617 and Judd-1626--two different goloid metric silver dollar designs--were distributed in three-piece sets to Congressmen along with the 1879 Flowing Hair stella. The story goes that perhaps 25 "originals" of each were struck for distribution, and that they proved so popular that perhaps 400 more sets were restruck in the following year. The numismatic literature for decades has maintained that the originals lack striations on the portrait of Liberty or the central reverse, while the restrikes show such striation. But as time goes by and no pieces appear to lack the striations, many numismatists have concluded that neither were the pattern gold pieces produced in that odd metric alloy, but rather they were struck on regular .900 fine planchets rolled out to 80% of the thickness of a half eagle-- making a four dollar piece and accounting for the roller marks or die striations seen on all known gold pieces.

    Physical Description.
    A few light contact marks, mostly on the small side and visible only with a loupe, fail to diminish the significant appeal of this legendary rarity. There are some light field hairlines. The two mentionable marks are a straight scrape through Liberty's hair and cheek, ending below the eye, with a second smaller intersecting scrape. Both sides are pretty canary-yellow, with good reflectivity in the fields and moderate mint frost remaining on the devices. As expected, this piece shows the light striations through Liberty's upper brow and the hair under the coronet that we believe exist on all pieces. NGC Census: 5 in PR61, 177 finer including Cameo designated coins. PCGS Population: 17 in PR61, 252 finer including Cameo and Deep Cameo designated pieces (12/08).

    From The Lemus Collection, Queller Family Collection Part Two.(Registry values: P1)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 28AZ, PCGS# 8057)

    Weight: 7.00 grams

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

    View all of [The Lemus Collection, Queller Family Collection Part Two ]

    View Certification Details from NGC

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2009
    7th-11th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 14
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,023

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