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    Description

    Desirable 1879 Flowing Hair Stella
    Judd-1635, PR64
    Cameo

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR64 ★ Cameo NGC. Numismatic riddle: What do the half cent, two cent, three cent, twenty cent, three dollar gold, and four dollar stella have to do with each other? Alert numismatists probably picked up on the answer at the second coin: They are the odd denominations of U.S. coinage, neither fish nor fowl. While not quite fitting into the mainstream of the United States' numismatic history, each denomination has still taken a part at one time or another, some merely bit players, some with more substantial roles ranging from the significant to the merely "curious."
    It is also well worth mentioning that the perception of most of those denominations and their importance in numismatic history has, in most cases, changed greatly over time.
    The half cent was produced in mostly small numbers at sporadic intervals from 1793 until 1857--sometimes in proof format only for certain years. It was a denomination with little purchasing power, one that took a back seat to the large cent, a workhorse of early U.S. commerce along with the half dollar. Today, of course, both the half cent and large cent are the beloved "old coppers" of numismatic lore.
    The copper two cent (1864-1873) and silver twenty cent piece (1875-1878) were much more bit players in coinage history, the former enduring less than a decade and the latter lasting only four years before numerous personality problems ended its brief career.
    With some overlap during the 19th century, first the three cent silver (1851-1873) and then the three cent nickel (1865-1889) took their turns on the numismatic stage. The three cent silver was detested due to its diminutive size (giving rise to the term "fish scales"); the three cent nickel had a slightly longer life but performed past its prime in 1883, when lower rates for letter postage obviated the need for a three cent coin. The three cent nickels' career finally ended with a whimper in 1889, after a series of proof-only issues that have so often in U.S. numismatics signaled the final curtain for various denominations.
    The three dollar gold (1854-1889) was another numismatic curiosity, one whose career roughly coincided with the minor three cent denominations. Although some modern-day numismatists suppose the denomination would have been useful to buy sheets of 100 three cent postage stamps or 100 three cent silvers, the series was unable to perform any role that a quarter eagle and half dollar could not do just as well. The mintages of the denomination reflect considerable ambivalence over its desirability, and as often happens with numismatic actors whose careers are doomed, the business strike emissions became progressively less before coming to a halt in 1889.
    Finally we come to the four dollar denomination. This is likely the oddest and most curious denomination of all. While the four dollar coin was intended as a unit of international commerce--and a metric one, at that--it was not a precise equivalent for any of the denominations it was supposed to replace. And while the inscriptions on the coin claim an even number of metric grams as composition, most numismatists today believe that, as a pattern proposal for a coinage that was never launched, the planchets used to strike the coins were of the normal gold composition, on planchets 80% of the thickness of a half eagle to produce the intrinsic value of four dollars. While the 1879 Coiled Hair and both of the 1880 issues were produced in extremely tiny numbers, the 1879 Flowing Hair was --so the story goes--produced to the extent of 15 "originals" in 1879 with an unknown number of "restrikes," variously estimated from 300 to 700 pieces, in 1879 or 1880. The supposition about "restrikes" comes from Akers' 1976 gold reference, Volume III, where he notes that the "restrikes" have "light adjustment marks or striations on the head of Liberty."
    In practice, all of the 1879 gold stellas we have cataloged at Heritage have shown the striations, which are roller marks from a shaved planchet, thinner than a regular half eagle planchet, that did not strike out during impression of the coins.
    The present example displays the roller marks or planchet striations through Liberty's lower hair and her profile to the jawline. This desirable coin appears quite close to an Ultra/Deep Cameo designation, and tilting the piece at the proper angle produces the black-on-gold appearance so coveted in proof gold. Viewed head-on, the specimen appears greenish-gold with a lot of eye appeal, and only under a loupe do a few tiny contact marks appear.
    Although the stella is considered strictly a pattern, the number of estimated pieces produced has allowed many numismatists of means to collect one alongside their regular U.S. coinage. In this respect, the 1879 Flowing Hair stella has similarities to yet another U.S. coin--the 1856 Flying Eagle cent. Both are among the most memorable and desirable issues in all of U.S. numismatics.
    From The Laredo Collection.(Registry values: P1)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 28AZ, 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 Laredo Collection ]

    Auction Info

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    September, 2008
    17th-21st Wednesday-Sunday
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