Exquisite 1879 Flowing Hair Gold Stella
1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR64 Cameo
PCGS. CAC. The 1879 Flowing Hair stellas were distributed in
three-piece sets to Congressmen along with examples of the
Judd-1617 and Judd-1626, two different goloid metric silver dollar
designs. According to numismatic legend, about 25 "original"
stellas were struck for distribution, and they proved so popular
that more sets were restruck in 1880. The most commonly seen figure
for the restrikes is 400, but some estimates are higher, making the
1879 Flowing Hair by far the most available of the four varieties:
a simple 2x2 matrix, with 1879 and 1880 on one side, and Flowing
Hair and Coiled Hair on the other.
Judd-1635, PR64 Cameo
Both the stellas and their counterparts in the three-piece sets, the goloid and goloid metric dollars, were the result of the increasing influence of Western silver mining interests and their cohorts, a cabal of Eastern politicians who were trying to increase domestic and international circulation of the precious metal via the guise of sans-borders metric and international currency concepts. According to the vision, gold or silver coinage with an "even" metric weight and purity--hence eliminating the need for assay testing--would obviate the need for individual country-states to issue their own precious metal coinage, a concept that would begin to be realized more than a century later with the introduction of the euro, the first truly international currency.
In the case of the stella, although it appears to be a standard-alloy gold coin, its purported "metric" alloy was composed of a "lot of gold with a little bit of silver," the whole alloyed with copper.
Therein lay a major flaw.
Both the goloid metric silver dollars, which purportedly contained a "lot of silver with a little bit of gold [about 4%]," and the stellas were indistinguishable from their standard-coinage-alloy counterparts. That is, they would have been indistinguishable, even if they had been actually struck in those unusual alloys. The small amounts of added silver or gold were insufficient for visual detection, an instant invitation for forgers to manufacture lower-value imitations of the real McCoy.
We say "would have been indistinguishable" because we firmly believe that no 1879 Flowing Hair gold stellas were ever made as "originals" in that metric alloy. Rather, they were struck on regular .900 fine gold planchets rolled out to 80% of the thickness of a half eagle, accounting for the striations seen on all known examples of the 1879 Flowing Hair stella.
Another, more fundamental flaw lay in their reliance on intrinsic value to equal a number of international currencies. Like any bullion coin, its intrinsic value as measured in Austrian florins, French francs, or Dutch guilder fluctuated over time, and in this way it had no ready advantage over the more-familiar U.S. gold eagles and half eagles.
Regardless of the original intent or misconceptions behind the creation of the stellas, today they are among the United States' most desired and reverse numismatic treasures. While the 1879 Coiled Hair and both 1880 versions are seldom offered and fabulously expensive, the 1879 Flowing Hair is available for a price, and always in demand.
This piece shows glorious, rich golden-yellow color and bold eye appeal. The striations are visible through Liberty's cheek and brow on the obverse, and on the high points of the star on the reverse, particularly the lower segment where the strike through CEN(TS) is somewhat soft. Otherwise, there are few signs of contact or other distractions. A wonderful acquisition to finish off that gold type set. Population: 18 in 64 Cameo, 20 finer (6/09).(Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 28AZ, PCGS# 88057)
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