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    Fabulous Gem Proof 1879 Flowing Hair Stella

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR65 NGC. This is a beautiful Gem proof example of the immensely popular four-dollar "goloid" pattern, more popularly known as the "stella," one of the few pattern designs in our country's history that have proven interesting enough and important enough to be collected alongside regular issue coinage.
    The stella four-dollar gold piece of 1879 was proposed as an international coin whose value would be roughly equivalent to that of several European gold coins, including the French twenty francs and the Austrian eight florins, among others. The principal actors in gaining support for this idea included Philadelphia inventor Dr. William Hubbell, Congressman Alexander Stephens (formerly vice president of the Confederacy), and John Kasson (U.S. minister to Austria-Hungary). The Charles Barber "Flowing Hair" version seen here was based upon a design that his father, William, had made the previous year. The so-called "Coiled Hair" variety was executed by George T. Morgan, in considerably smaller numbers.
    In January 1880, 25 pieces were struck and distributed to various Washington, D.C., dignitaries to popularize the proposed new denomination. These specimens were included in three-coin pattern sets that also contained one of each of the two goloid dollar designs of 1879. The coins must have proven popular, as an additional 100 sets were ordered. Eventually, a further 300 sets were produced, bringing the official total to 425. This remains the standard mintage, and this figure is quoted on page 236 of the 2008 Guide Book of U.S. coins. A cautionary statement is included, however, that: "Precise mintage numbers are unknown." The ninth edition of the Judd pattern reference book includes an estimate of "perhaps 700 or so." At least 20 additional examples were struck in off-metals--10 apiece in copper and aluminum.
    It is possible that the 25 "originals" of this type were struck on a screw or medal press, with the remainder produced on a regular coinage press. One of the "originals" (Pollock-1832) should display more sharply defined design elements than the later "restrikes," and should not exhibit the parallel roller marks across Liberty's hair and cheek that are found on the currently offered specimen.
    This sparkling coin has all of the technical merit and visual appeal that is expected of a Gem. The design features are crisply made throughout, with the usual set of fine roller marks (as struck) that extend diagonally across Liberty's upper cheek, ear, and adjacent hair detail, slightly softening the impression of TY in LIBERTY. The coin shows very glassy reflectivity in the fields, and undisturbed original coloration in pleasing shades of butter-yellow and antique-gold. There are no relevant marks on either side of this important offering that would argue against the assigned PR65 grade level.
    All in all, this is a gorgeous and conditionally scarce representative of the famous Flowing Hair stella design, and a piece that will generate considerable interest and excitement when it crosses the auction block.

    From The Southwest 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 Southwest Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2008
    14th-16th Thursday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 18
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,527

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