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    Description

    1879 Flowing Hair Stella

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR 61 PCGS. The four dollar gold piece, or stella, is one of the most desirable and sought-after of all United States coins. The derivation of the term stella is one that, while often repeated in numismatic circles, is not completely understood by many. When gold coins were first struck in the Mint in 1795, they were denominated on a unit of value called the 'eagle.' The eagle was valued at ten dollars and it also had a literal representation of an eagle on the reverse. With the eagle worth ten dollars, it would logically follow that a half eagle would be worth five dollars, a quarter eagle two and a half dollars, and when double eagles were first struck more than a half century later they would be valued at twenty dollars.
    The stella, or four dollar gold piece, was a new denomination, proposed by John Kasson as an international coin whose value would be roughly equivalent to that of an Austrian 8-florin. It was also a new base unit for gold coins. And, in fact, patterns were struck and denominated as quintuple stellas, or twenty dollar gold pieces. Similar to the representation of the literal eagle on coins denominated on the ten dollar gold piece, the stella had a star on the reverse ('stella' means star in Latin). Charles Barber receives the credit for designing the Flowing Hair stella in 1879, but he actually modified a design executed by his father, William, from the previous year (who died in August of 1879 after catching a severe chill while bathing on the seashore at Atlantic City). Only 415 pieces were struck, and technically all are patterns. However, they were widely distributed around Washington to popularize the newly proposed denomination. According to Breen, many of the stellas that survive today in less-than-stellar condition were worn around the necks of Washington-area madams, having being given or traded for services rendered by Congressmen in 1879 and 1880. The stella was soon forgotten after it was rejected by Congress, but these pattern gold coins live on as reminders of a time when an international coinage was seriously considered by the United States.
    This particular piece is obviously one of the restrikes from 1880, as evidenced by the die striations in the center of each side. Cleaned at one time, the moderately reflective fields show a subtle overlay of lilac and rose patina that is attractive itself and also serves to partially subdue the effects of the cleaning from long ago.
    From the Dr. Robert W. Dingle Collection.

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

    Weight: 7.00 grams

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


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

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May-Jun, 2001
    31st-2nd Thursday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
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