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    1879 Flowing Hair Stella, PR61
    Judd-1635, Pollock-1833
    Famous Odd-Denomination Rarity

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR61 PCGS. Numismatics is no stranger to mystery. The unknown might be one of this hobby's greatest appeals. After all, what collector has not wondered about the hands through which his or her coins had previously passed? But there are virtually an infinite number of questions to answer about practically every series from the 1792 pattern coinage to today. The four dollar gold coins manufactured in 1879 and 1880 are no exception.

    The circumstances regarding the production of four dollar gold stellas has long been the subject of intense inquiry and interest, perhaps explaining the coins' popularity. Everything from their originator(s), designer(s), composition, and distribution totals have been disputed. Our understanding of the coins has been enhanced by the extensive research of Roger W. Burdette, published in the Spring 2015 edition of the Journal of Numismatic Research.

    Wheeler Hubbell and Representative Alexander H. Stephens, not the oft-credited Representative John A. Kasson, were responsible for convincing Congress to authorize a test run of four dollar gold patterns. Hubbell and Stephens misconstrued Kasson's suggestion that the United States manufacture coins of equal value to the Austrian eight florin and its European counterparts ($3.88, not $4). More importantly, the two men saw an opportunity to profit from the production of such coins by insisting the U.S. Mint strike the stellas in Hubbell's patented goloid alloy. Burdette's study also led him to conclude that Charles Barber is likely the source of all three stella designs: the Flowing and Coiled Hair obverse, and the sole reverse. It had previously been suggested that George Morgan designed the Coiled Hair portrait.

    We know that 25 1879 Flowing Hair stellas were struck in late 1879 and early 1880. They were included in three-coin sets with Goloid dollars and Metric dollars and distributed to congressmen for $6.10. Another 400 sets were sold through May 1880, leading to a total reported mintage of 425 pieces. It may be that more 1879 Flowing Hair stellas were struck. Estimates range as high as 725 coins. While Burdette has done an admiral job in trying to set the record straight, much of the mystery surrounding the stellas remains unsolved and will undoubtedly continue to draw collectors to this fascinating set of odd-denomination rarities.

    The honey-gold surfaces of this PR61 coin fail to show any planchet striations, frequently seen on other four dollar gold pieces. Small marks are scattered in the partially reflective fields. A well-detailed example of this sought-after pattern. Ranked 18th in Garrett and Guth's 100 Greatest U.S. Coins (2014).
    From The Hotel Harrington Collection.(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.

    View all of [The Hotel Harrington Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2017
    4th-9th Wednesday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 22
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,901

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