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    Description

    1879 Coiled Hair Stella, PR65
    Very Rare Judd-1638 Pattern
    Twelve Examples Traced

    1879 $4 Coiled Hair, Judd-1638, Pollock-1838, R.6, PR65 PCGS. CAC. The legendary 1879 Coiled Hair stella is unquestionably one of the premier rarities in American numismatics. Examples seldom appear at auction, and when they do they generate a significant amount of interest. The coins have the ability to transcend numismatic specialization and appeal to a variety of pattern collectors, gold collectors, and advanced regular-issue enthusiasts alike -- entirely understandable given their absolute rarity and fascinating history.

    The International Economic Scene in 1879
    An appreciation of the political and economic climate of the 1870s is helpful to understanding the reasons behind the creation of the four dollar gold denomination. The 1870s saw an immense increase in silver output in the United States, most notably in Nevada, where the Comstock mines such as Ophir and Consolidated Virginia produced hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of silver ore. This, in tandem with Germany transitioning to a gold standard and dumping roughly 8,000 tons of silver onto an already saturated market, resulted in a substantial decrease in the price of silver relative to gold. The powerful silver mining interests in this country were understandably displeased, but scored a major success when Congress passed the Bland-Allison Act in 1878, mandating the federal government purchase between $2 million and $4 million of domestic silver monthly in an effort to artificially inflate the metal's market value. The Congressional allies of silver mine owners, including Representatives Richard P. Bland and John A. Kasson, further proposed a series of bills to establish a coin for international trade in an effort to expand worldwide demand for American silver. Crucially, the coin had to be weighted in grams such that it could be easily exchanged for well-established European denominations. The goloid four-dollar stellas were among the coins proposed to fill this need.

    In 1879, John A. Kasson, serving as Minister Plenipotentiary to Austria, proposed a four dollar metric gold coin to be used for foreign trade. This was in response to the personal difficulties he had experienced in exchanging American coins for their Austrian equivalents. Having chaired the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures from 1863 to 1867, Kasson was intimately familiar with international currency systems and was able to effectively convince members of Congress that his idea was a good one.

    Pattern Designs
    Mint officials quickly got to work. Obverse designs were submitted by Charles Barber (Flowing Hair type, based on an 1878 half eagle pattern done by his father, Chief Engraver William Barber, who passed away in August 1879) and George T. Morgan (Coiled Hair type). R.W. Julian has suggested that Barber and Morgan each submitted a design at the behest of Mint Superintendent A. Loudon Snowden, who likely wanted several designs from which to choose. Ed Reiter has also proposed that having Barber and Morgan submit designs was yet another instance of Mint Director Linderman pitting the two men against each other, possibly in an effort to secure more patterns for his growing collection. All four-dollar pattern pieces share a common reverse featuring a pentagonal star, or stella in Latin. The patterns were produced in various compositions including gold, goloid, copper, aluminum, and white metal.

    Quantities Struck
    Struck over a two year period, production of the four dollar stellas ceased in 1880. The double eagle was already an effective coin for international trade, and the four dollar denomination failed to perfectly match any foreign denomination, as it was intended (for example, the French 20 franc was valued at $3.86, not $4.00). Both the Flowing Hair and Coiled Hair types exist bearing an 1879 date. The former, which were also struck in 1880 but backdated, are far and away the most available of the four stella variants. Between 400 and 750 1879 Flowing Hair coins were produced, and roughly 250 pieces survive.

    The 1879 Coiled Hair stellas, unlike their Flowing Hair counterparts, are very rare. The coins were issued in three-coin Morgan Goloid sets accompanied by a Goloid dollar pattern (Judd-1631) and Metric dollar pattern (Judd-1622). USPatterns.com estimates that only 12 to 15 examples are extant, corresponding well to the roster listed below.

    Auction History
    An example of the 1879 Coiled Hair stella first appeared at auction surprisingly early, as part of a Goloid set offered in lot 631 of the J. Colvin Randall Collection (George Cogan, 3/1882). Cogan first described the Goloid and Metric dollars, then the stella was described as follows:

    "Gold Stella (No. 4 piece). Hair braided and done up in a coil, head of Liberty surrounded by *6*G*.3.*S*.7*C*&*G*R*A*M*S* Rev. A star inscribed 'One Stella, 400 Cents." Brilliant proof. This set has never been offered before at either public or private sale. Excessively rare.
    Note - This set must not be taken for the ordinary 'Goloid Set' as the obverse is nothing like it. In this set hair of Liberty is arranged in coils, while in the other it falls down the neck in curls, and the face is totally different."



    Cogan had offered an 1878 Goloid dollar in the previous lot, explaining his identification of the stella as the "No. 4 piece." The first auction appearance of the present coin that we can trace with certainty was lot 243 of the Golden Jubilee Sale (B. Max Mehl, 5/1950). The coin was offered as part of a four-piece set of stellas, with the coins in successive individual lots, but a provision was made to sell all four coins as a set if a high enough bid was received. Mehl stated:

    "1879 $4.00 Gold. Head of Liberty with coiled hair, the hair-do prevalent in 1879. The reverse the same as that of the first type. Perfect brilliant proof. According to the mint report, only about 12 specimens were minted. A smaller number is known to exist today. Specimens of this rarity and the two following have been offered in recent years, but invariably they are the same specimen being re-offered. Record near the $1,000.00 mark. Another coin destined to become one of our real great rarities."



    The lot was purchased by prominent Fort Worth collector Amon G. Carter, Sr. and it remained in the Carter Family Collection for 34 years. All four stellas in the set were purchased at this sale, so Carter either placed the highest bid on all four individual lots or he made a prohibitive bid on the four coins as a set. The record price for an 1879 Coiled Hair stella is the $1,041,300 realized by the PR67 Cameo NGC coin in the Tacasyl Collection (Bonhams, 9/2013). Most recently, Heritage auctioned the Garrett coin, certified PR66 Cameo by PCGS, as lot 5404 of the 2014 FUN Signature sale, which realized $851,875 including a buyer's premium.

    Physical Description
    The present coin is a delightful Gem with sharply detailed devices and well-preserved yellow and orange-gold surfaces that show a few highlights of red. The design elements are frosty and the fields are deeply reflective, under the patina. The parallel striations seen on all stellas are present here, but are much fainter than usual. A curving lint mark near M in UNUM serves as a pedigree marker. Overall eye appeal is tremendous. Housed in a green label holder. Population: 3 in 65, 3 finer (2/15).

    Roster of 1879 Coiled Hair Stellas
    1. PR67 Cameo NGC. Western Collection (Stack's, 12/1981), lot 1137; Gold Rush Collection (Heritage, 1/2005), lot 30041, realized $655,500; Tacasyl Collection (Bonhams, 9/2013), lot 1009, realized $1,041,300.
    2. PR66 Cameo PCGS. Sale of Coins (Harlan Page Smith, 1/1882), lot 655; T. Harrison Garrett; Robert Garrett; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part I (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1979), lot 431; Auction '80 (Superior, 8/1980), lot 385; Buddy Ebsen Collection (Superior, 5/1987), lot 2444; Holecek Family Trust; 65th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2000), lot 1623; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2014), lot 5404.
    3. PR66 PCGS. Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; United States Gold Coin Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1882), lot 317; Dr. Jerry Buss Collection (Superior, 1/1985), lot 1766; G. Lee Kuntz Collection (Superior, 10/1991), lot 3389.
    4. PR65 PCGS. Golden Jubilee Sale (B. Max Mehl, 5/1950), lot 243, part of a set; Amon Carter, Sr.; Amon Carter, Jr.; Carter Collection (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 632, part of a four-piece set of stellas. The present coin.
    5. PR65 PCGS. Memorable Sale (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 280; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 7/1997), lot 359; Spectrum Numismatics.
    6. PR65 PCGS. Will Neil Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1947), lot 2603 (part of a complete set of stellas; Grant Pierce; ANA Convention Sale (Stack's, 8/1976), lot 2920 (as part of a complete set); May Auction (Superior, 5/1991), lot 1374.
    7. Gem Brilliant Proof. Rio Rancho Estate (Superior, 10/1974), lot 133; Lighthouse Collection (Stack's, 6/1978), lot 828; Ed Trompeter; Trompeter Collection (Superior, 2/1992), lot 134; Orlando Sale (Superior, 8/1992), lot 598; 60th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/1995), lot 1547.
    8. Gem Brilliant Proof. Dr. John E. Wilkison, part of a set; Jeff Browning; Dallas Bank Collection (Sotheby's-Stack's, 10/2001), lot 361, part of a set.
    9. PR64 Cameo PCGS. King Farouk; Palace Collections of Egypt (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 322; Gaston DiBello Collection (Stack's, 5/1970), lot 796; Globus-Corson Collections (Stack's, 3/1999), lot 134; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 1/2000), lot 350; Atlanta Signature (Heritage, 8/2001), lot 7750; ANA National Money Show (Stack's Bowers, 5/2013), lot 1294, realized $646,250.
    10. PR63 NGC. Stack's Fixed Price List, Summer 1997, page 57 as part of a complete set; Americana Sale (Stack's, 1/1998), lot 1498, part of a set; Richmond Collection (David Lawrence, 7/2004), lot 1304, part of a set; Denver Signature (Heritage, 8/2006), lot 5468.
    11. PR63 NGC. Armand Champa Sale (Bowers and Ruddy, 5/1972), lot 521; S. Hallock du Pont Collection (Sotheby's, 9/1982), lot 250; Coles Collection (Stack's, 10/1983), lot 57; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 8/1995), lot 307; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 9/1998), lot 7105; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2005), lot 30040; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 3488; Pre-Long Beach Sale (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 5/2007), lot 1551; Pre-Long Beach Sale (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 2/2009), lot 1433.
    12. PR66. Josiah K. Lilly; Smithsonian Institution, grade per Garrett and Guth.

    Additional Appearances
    A. Brilliant Proof. John Colvin Randall Collection (George Cogan, 3/1882), lot 631, part of a Goloid set.
    B. Proof. George Woodside Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 4/1892), lot 346.
    C. Proof. Harlan Page Smith Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 5/1906), lot 1445.
    D. Proof. A coin sold to DeWitt Smith by H.P. Smith, mentioned by Henry Chapman in his Smith Collection catalog in C above. Sold to Virgil Brand in 1908, Brand Journal number 46963.
    E. Proof. Edgar Adams in 1911; sold to Virgil Brand, Brand Journal number 57093.
    F. Proof. F.C.C. Boyd in 1921; sold to Virgil Brand, Brand Journal number 105729.
    G. Proof. John Story Jenks Collection (Henry Chapman, 12/1921), lot 5682.
    H. Brilliant Proof. William Forrester Dunham Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1941), lot 2063.
    I. Brilliant Proof. Albert H. Grinnell Collection (Mehl, 6/1943), lot 185; Fred E. Olsen Collection (Mehl, 11/1944), lot 614. Part of a four-piece set of stellas.
    J. Brilliant Proof. Pennsylvania Sale (Hollinbeck, 2/1947), lot 2533.
    K. Brilliant Gem Proof. J.W. Schmandt Collection (Stack's, 2/1957), lot 219.
    L. Proof. Public Auction Sale (Kreisberg-Schulman, 2/1961), lot 1150, part of a set of stellas.
    M. Brilliant Gem Proof. Golden Sale, Part II (Kreisberg-Schulman, 1/1963), lot 1938, part of a set of stellas.
    N. Gem Proof. Public Coin Auction (Quality Sales, 9/1973), lot 1154.
    From The New Orleans Collection.(Registry values: P3) (NGC ID# 28AZ, PCGS# 8058)

    Weight: 7.00 grams

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


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

    View all of [The New Orleans Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2015
    22nd-26th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 19
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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