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    1879 Flowing Hair Stella, PR64 Deep Cameo
    America's Most Popular and Collectible Gold Pattern

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, JD-1, R.3, PR64 Deep Cameo PCGS. CAC. The four dollar stella was a pattern for a proposed international coinage, an idea that was popular in the second half of the 19th century, but would only be realized in recent times, with the advent of the euro. Although the stella is technically a pattern, several hundred examples of the 1879 Flowing Hair design were struck, and the stella has been collected by mainstream gold collectors since the time of issue.

    The stella was championed by Alexander Stephens, then-Chairman of the House Committee on Coinage, Weights and Measures, who was a close associate of Dr. William Wheeler Hubbell, the holder of the patent for the goloid alloy. Hubbell was aggressively marketing his alloy of gold, silver, and copper as a suitable metal for U.S. coinage at the time. Hubbell and Stevens capitalized on a letter from Ambassador John A. Kasson, who suggested the authorization of a U.S. gold coin of the exact value of the French 20 franc piece for use in international exchange, to introduce the idea for the stella to Congress. Two designs were produced in 1879, the familiar Flowing Hair design by Chief Engraver Charles Barber and the Coiled Hair design, which was clearly influenced by George T. Morgan's design for the Goloid Metric dollar, Judd-1631, but was probably adapted by Barber, as well (see Roger Burdette's article in the spring 2015 issue of the Journal of Numismatic Research for details). Both designs were struck again in 1880. Unfortunately, while the proposed value of the stella closely matched that of several European gold coins in use at the time, including the Austrian 8 florins, Spanish 20 pesetas, Italian 20 lire, French 20 francs, and others, it was not an exact match for any and would be useless in simplifying exchanges. Accordingly, Congress never authorized the issue.

    The present coin is an attractive Choice proof, with sharply detailed, frosty design elements that create intense cameo contrast with the deeply reflective fields. Both sides show the enigmatic parallel planchet striations seen on all examples of this issue. In his United States Proof Coins, Volume IV, John Dannreuther theorizes that the stellas were struck from planchets punched out of gold alloy strips that were originally intended for half eagle production. The strips were pulled through a draw bench to reduce them to the proper thickness for the four dollar denomination, acquiring the striations in the process. Of course, this means the coins were not produced from Hubbell's goloid alloy at all, and none of the coins that have been tested show the goloid composition. The well-preserved greenish-gold surfaces of this piece show highlights of yellow and lilac, with outstanding eye appeal. Population: 12 in 64 (1 in 64+) Deep Cameo, 18 finer. CAC: 8 in 64, 8 finer (12/18).(Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 28AZ, PCGS# 98057)

    Weight: 7.00 grams

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

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

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    Auction Dates
    Jan-Feb, 2019
    31st-3rd Thursday-Sunday
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