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1879 Flowing Hair Stella, PR65
Judd-1635, Technically a Pattern
Long Collected Alongside Regular Issues

1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR65 PCGS. The 1879 Flowing Hair stellas had numerous problems as a practical idea. There was no good reason for them to be favored over established federal American denominations -- the half eagle, eagle, or double eagle -- for international transactions. Their awkward proposed metric composition would have required special alloying procedures and safeguards at the Mint, a logistical nightmare. And even though they approximated the value of several European gold coin denominations of the era, they equaled none of them.

The stellas were issued in three-piece sets along with the Judd-1617 and Judd-1626 silver dollars, a.k.a. the "Goloid Metric Dollar" and the "Silver Metric Dollar," as contemporary numismatist Samuel K. Harzfeld called them. In offering a complete set in 1880, Harzfeld bluntly wrote, "The pieces are the more desirable, as there is not the least doubt that they will not be accepted for our coinage."

Another numismatist of the time, W. Elliot Woodward, went to great lengths to lament the sorry state of affairs at the Mint, with former great rarities in the pattern series turning up in roll quantities after assurances that "only a very few had been struck, and that the dies were destroyed." In the late 19th century Woodward was suspicious of any great rarities, including the 1802 half dimes, 1804 silver dollars, 1827 quarters, and what he called "rare experimental coins."

Apparently hoping for a Congressional investigation of the Mint, Woodward wrote in the October 1880 Ferguson Haines Collection catalog:

"Should, however, an investigation be ordered, it is to be hoped it will not be entrusted to that committee which requires 618 sets of the goloid coinage [this refers to the 1879 Flowing Hair stellas], costing nearly $4,000 for the metal alone, before it can decide whether to recommend the acceptance or rejection of the most stupid humbug and most stupendous swindle that has lately been honored with official attention."

Today, of course, the stellas are avidly sought by hordes of numismatists. Even though they are patterns by any technical definition, they are eagerly collected alongside the other U.S. gold types. It must be said, too, that they offer an extra "coolness" factor as the only U.S. coin of four units -- there are no comparable four cent patterns in U.S. numismatics.

This example displays rich reddish-gold color throughout with strong mirrors present in the fields. As always, shallow roller marks are seen over the central devices. The only mentionable surface "flaw" is Mint-made, an irregular area of planchet roughness at 6 o'clock near the reverse rim.
From The Klamath Mountain Collection, Part II.(Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 28AZ, PCGS# 8057)

View all of [The Klamath Mountain Collection, Part II ]

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Auction Dates
January, 2014
8th-12th Wednesday-Sunday
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