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    1879 Flowing Hair Stella, PR62 Cameo
    Sought-After Four-Dollar Pattern, Judd-1635

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR62 Cameo NGC. Pattern collectors and gold specialists alike count the four dollar gold stella on their short list of most-wanted issues. The reasons underlying the coins' desirability are plentiful. The stella's four dollar face value is unique in American coinage, examples prove exceedingly elusive to acquire, the designs are artistically refined, and perhaps most importantly, the stellas represent a significant development in the history of international trade and exchange.

    Double eagles had served as the international trade coin of choice since the early 1850s. Upon arrival at a given overseas destination the twenty dollar gold pieces would trade for their gold value, as the denomination was meaningless outside of the United States. The problem was that the double eagles were considerably larger than most other foreign trade coins. Moreover, the 1870s witnessed a dramatic decline in the value of silver relative to gold, thanks in part to continued Comstock yields and Germany's transition to the gold standard. John A. Kasson, Minister to Austria-Hungary and former Chair of the Committee of Coinage, Weights, and Measures, was frustrated with the lack of a smaller, more suitable coin for European exchange and the falling price of silver bullion (he also had ties to western mining interests). He took issue with the status quo and sought to kill two birds with one stone, as the saying goes.

    By Kasson's estimation, proposing a goloid four dollar coin solved both problems. It closely approximated the French 20 franc, British sovereign, Italian 20 lire, and a host of other foreign coins, facilitating currency exchange. Additionally, the metal alloy composed of gold, silver, and copper benefited silver mining interests by heightening the demand for their product, which was required to produce the stellas. Congressional approval of Kasson's proposal kick-started the pattern production process at the Mint, where Charles Barber and George Morgan each submitted an obverse design (Flowing wing Hair and Coiled Hair respectively) to be paired with a single reverse motif. Barber's Flowing Hair type, modeled after an 1878 half eagle pattern by his father, William Barber, was adopted as the official obverse design.

    There are many estimates regarding the number of 1879 Flowing Hair stellas struck, but there is no definitive mintage. The range tends to fall between 425 and 725 pieces. According to, the coins were sold in Goloid-Metric sets to congressmen for $6.10 -- the cost of production. Collectors were later able to acquire examples for $15 each. Today the coins are sought-after rarities, regularly fetching in excess of six figures for problem-free representatives.

    The present coin is an attractive PR62 specimen, with sharply detailed frosty design elements that contrast boldly with the deeply reflective fields. The always seen parallel die striations are faintly visible on the portrait and the bright yellow-gold surfaces show a few minor contact marks and hairlines. The overall presentation is most appealing for this widely popular 19th century issue.
    From The Collection of Edwin J. Mantooth Bowers.(Registry values: P1)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# EAVB, PCGS# 88057)

    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 Collection of Edwin J. Mantooth Bowers ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2015
    22nd-26th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 27
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,572

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