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    1879 Flowing Hair Stella, PR63
    Judd-1635, Famous Four Dollar Issue

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, JD-1, R.3, PR63 NGC. Few issues in American numismatics have been the subject of as much misinformation and controversy as the four dollar gold coins better known as stellas, which were struck as patterns in small quantities in 1879 and 1880. Even in 1904, just 25 years after they were first minted, rumors swirled about their rarity and the reasons for which they were produced. An article printed in newspapers across the country in April of that year described the appearance of an 1879 stella on display at the Germania National Bank in Milwaukee. The article described the coin as "probably the only one of its kind in existence" and noted nothing was known about it, except that 15 years prior it had been "sent to Washington," where it was deemed to be genuine.

    Then, as happens now, someone stepped in to set the record straight as much as possible. Former U.S. Representative from Ohio, Ebenezer B. Finley, who served in Congress from 1877 to 1881, wrote to the Milwaukee Sentinel on April 9, 1904:

    "I have one of those coins in my possession and two others, part gold and part silver coins, minted at the same time. ...and I am able to give you the history of the coin minting of these several coins by the United States.

    "They were minted as the coins show in 1879, at which time I was in congress, from Ohio, and Alexander H. Stephens, vice president of the confederacy was chairman of the committee on coinage, weights and measures.

    "Mr. Stephens introduced from the committee a bill to change our coinage from the present to the metric system corresponding with the French system as I recollect it, as indicated by these coins, and thereupon congress passed an act that a limited number of sets of these coins should be minted for the use of each member of the committee, the president and his cabinet, and possibly the senate, but about that I am not sure.

    "The bill changing the coinage failed to become a law and though it received very considerable consideration by congress, and I am of the impression that Alexander H. Stephens delivered a speech on the subject, which was extensively published at the time, yet in the short period of twenty-five years, the whole subject has become so lost and forgotten by the public, that one of the coins found and on exhibition in one of your banks is speculated upon by the press as much as the discovery of a hidden coin of the old Roman empire, and according to that you say even the officials at Washington no nothing about it.

    "It may be well said, 'Sic Transit Gloria Mundi [Thus Passes Worldly Glory].' "

    Indeed, Representative Finley got it right. The 1879 Flowing Hair stellas were struck to the extent of about 425 coins for distribution to members of Congress, who were to assess their appropriateness for international trade with member states of the Latin Monetary Union. The project, which ultimately failed for a multitude of reasons, was spearheaded by Alexander H. Stephens at the behest of Dr. William Wheeler Hubbell, a lawyer, inventor, and self-promoter who stood to gain financially from the adoption of the metric system of coinage and the striking of coins in his patented alloys. This Select Uncirculated stella features bright yellow-gold surfaces and strong strike definition with the ubiquitous striations over the central motifs.(Registry values: P1)

    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

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