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    Deep Cameo Gem 1879 Flowing Hair Stella

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR65 Deep Cameo PCGS. This impressive Gem stella has deeply mirrored fields masked by a slightly hazy appearance. The devices have frosty mint luster, imparting the wonderful contrasting appearance that is so desirable today; although at one time it was considered a negative characteristic. Fine parallel striations cross both surfaces diagonally, and in the same relative direction on each side of this beautiful Gem. Such planchet striations are seen to some extent on every known example of this issue. Usually only visible on the devices, this example retains evidence of the striations in the fields, as well. The obverse has a tiny lintmark between the border and star 12. Small, dark planchet defects are visible beneath the E of STATES. The central obverse design details are a trifle weak, but all other aspects are fully defined.
    The four dollar gold piece, or stella as it is called, is one of our favorite issues, combining rarity, beauty, and history. Charles Barber prepared the design for this issue. He had just assumed the position of chief engraver at the Mint from his father, William, who passed away earlier the same year. George Morgan, assistant engraver to both Barber's, prepared the other stella design, the Coiled Hair version. Technically a pattern coin, only the 1879 Flowing Hair issue is reasonably easy to acquire. Three other varieties, the 1879 Coiled Hair, 1880 Flowing Hair, and 1880 Coiled Hair coins are each extremely rare.
    The purpose behind the stella was international trade. It was felt desirable to have a United States gold coin of such a value that it would be equivalent to numerous European gold coins. The Honorable John Kasson was the United States Minister to Austria in the late 1870s, thus he was specifically interested in a U.S. coin valued similarly to the Austrian eight florin piece. This Austrian gold coin, with a value equal to 20 French francs, contained 0.1867 ounces of actual gold, for an equivalent face value of $3.86. Kasson made his proposal to John Sherman, the Treasury secretary and Alexander Stephens, chairman of the Coinage Committee. Additional details were provided by Pennsylvanian, Dr. Wheeler W. Hubbell, who preferred the metric coinage system and who held patents for his goloid coinage composition.
    Although the inscription of the coin provided for a composition of gold, silver, and copper, with 85.71% of the coin consisting of actual gold, it is believed that all examples were actually produced on standard 90% gold planchets. These pieces are the same diameter as half eagles, with half eagle planchet stock rolled thinner (accounting for the striations from the drawing bench), and punched with the standard half eagle planchet punch. Had the experiment been approved and the coinage authorized, Mint personnel would not have continued such a luxury. They would then have found it necessary to create a new metric alloy and develop new equipment to produce the appropriate planchets. Fortunately for them, and for us today, such a laborious process was not necessary.(Registry values: P1)

    Coin Index Numbers: (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.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2007
    8th-10th Wednesday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 13
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,179

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