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    Description

    1879 Flowing Hair Stella, Judd-1635
    PR65 Deep Cameo, Green CAC Sticker
    Rich Orange-Gold Color

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, JD-1, R.3, PR65 Deep Cameo PCGS. CAC. The 1879 Flowing Hair stella is without question one of the icons of American numismatic design, jumping out of the pages of the Guide Book alongside a host of curious colonials and federal decimal issues. But unlike those issues, the stella was never made for circulation. Instead, it was a poorly conceived project in creating an international metric coinage.

    Step One: The Idea

    The idea for creating an international trade coin or a system of coinage to facilitate international trade between the United States and its European counterparts was not new around the time the stella was proposed. Several proposals, all of which failed, were put forth during the 1860s and early 1870s to better match American coins to those of the Latin Monetary Union.

    William Wheeler Hubbell was the first to suggest a four dollar denomination trade coin, arguing that it would closely match the value of the French 20 francs, Italian 20 lire, Austrian 8 florin, etc. Hubbell's proposal called for the coin to be struck in his own patented goloid composition -- an amalgam of gold, silver, and copper that Hubbell claimed had a variety of beneficial qualities.

    Ultimately, the four dollar denomination was doomed to fail from the outset. It did not equate precisely with any European trade coins and was too close in value to the gold pieces already produced in the United States, namely the quarter eagle, three dollar, and half eagle. Not to mention the goloid composition was more costly to refine and difficult to work with than standard .900 fine gold.

    Step Two: Design and Production


    While the four dollar stella failed as a long-term project, Hubbell's ally in the House of Representatives, Alexander H. Stephens, chairman of the House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures, championed the cause and saw to it that a small number of pattern pieces were struck. On October 4, 1879, Mint Director Horatio Burchard wrote to A. Louden Snowden, Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint, requesting that he prepare dies for the production of the Goloid dollar and Metric silver dollar, as well as the stella.

    Two obverse designs and a single reverse were used for the stella. The Flowing Hair obverse was designed by Chief Engraver Charles Barber based on an earlier pattern by his father, William Barber (Judd-1574). Charles Barber also designed the reverse based on the suggestions of William Wheeler Hubbell. The engraver responsible for the Coiled Hair motif is less certain. While many have argued that George Morgan created the design, recent research suggests Barber may have produced the die, using one of Morgan's portraits for inspiration.

    No one knows for sure why or how many 1879 Coiled Hair or 1880 Flowing Hair and Coiled Hair stellas were struck. It is estimated that 20 of each were manufactured. Documents pertaining to the production of 1879 Flowing Hair stellas are much more transparent. The records show 425 pieces struck, delivered sporadically from December 1879 through May 1880 and issued in sets containing a Goloid dollar and Metric silver dollar. Each three-coin set sold for $6.10.

    The Stella Today


    Many of these distinctive pattern pieces were saved by the Congressmen and collectors who purchased them, explaining the issue's relatively high survival rate. The 1879 Flowing Hair stella is not overly difficult to find in most grades, although demand outpaces supply to such an extent that only the most well-resourced collectors can afford even entry-level examples. Representatives become genuinely difficult to locate with Deep Cameo surfaces. PCGS reports 12 PR65 Deep Cameo submissions, plus five more in PR66 Deep Cameo (one in PR66+ Deep Cameo) and two top-graded Superb Gems (9/19).

    Physical Description


    This exceptionally attractive 1879 Flowing Hair stella features fantastic rich orange and reddish-gold color. Dramatic contrast exists between the glassy mirrors and lightly frosted motifs, which show nearly full detail. The centers are characteristically incomplete with parallel roller marks present on each side -- a trait common to nearly every example of this type. This Deep Cameo Gem lacks any singular contact marks, and eye appeal is phenomenal. Worth a premium bid.
    From The Kodiak Collection. (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.

    View all of [The Kodiak Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2020
    8th-12th Wednesday-Sunday
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