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    1879 Stella, PR66 ★ Ultra Cameo
    Judd-1635, Flowing Hair Design
    Iconic International Coinage Pattern

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR66 ★ Ultra Cameo NGC. Ex: Richmond Collection. The Flowing Hair stella is an iconic and curious issue, a pattern included among circulating denominations in the annual Guide Book. And yet, the conditions leading to its creation and production are about as poorly understood as any other issue in the American federal series.

    For many years, writers, researchers, and catalogers have told the story of Representative John A. Kasson, the former Chairman of the House Committee on Coinage, Weights and Measures, and from 1877 to 1881, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Austria-Hungary. According to numismatic lore, Kasson urged Congress to authorize a four dollar gold denomination to standardize complex exchanges calculated in French 20 franc, Italian 20 lire, and Austrian 8 florin, and similar coinages of the Latin Monetary Union.

    Roger Burdette clarifies Kasson's intention in "Louis Garnett, Wheeler Hubbell, and the Goloid Fiasco," published in the spring 2015 issue of the Journal of Numismatic Research. At the heart of Burdette's argument is a small but important distinction in the wording of two 1879 letters, one by Kasson and the other by then-Chairman of the House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures, Alexander H. Stephens. The discrepancy could easily have been overlooked, but it provides significant insight into the true genesis story of the four dollar gold stella. Kasson wrote to the State department on January 3, 1879:

    "The United States have no coin closely approximating the value of the 20-franc piece. If a new gold coin were authorized by Congress, to be the exact value of this gold piece ... and this to be issued in substitution of the three-dollar gold pieces, which should be withdrawn, we should have a standard of money ... which might gradually become the standard for all international commercial transactions... ."

    As Roger Burdette writes, this letter "has long been used as the impetus for proposed Stella $4 coin. ... However, careful reading ... reveals no suggestion for a $4 coin by the ambassador." Kasson's letter was eventually forwarded to Chairman Stephens. Stephens, likely in consultation with his friend William Wheeler Hubbell, who was marketing his own goloid alloy to Congress, adapted Kasson's wording to "approximate denomination." He then used Kasson's altered letter as justification for the proposal of a four dollar coin struck in Wheeler's goloid composition, the stella. Of course, the stella was doomed to fail. Its face value did not match that of the 20 franc and was effectively useless in simplifying currency exchange.

    This 1879 Flowing Hair stella, a Barber design, was one of an estimated 425 examples distributed to members of Congress and eventually collectors from late 1879 through early 1880. Survivors run the gamut from well-worn and impaired to nearly flawless. This Premium Gem proof is in the top echelon of known examples. NGC reports six PR66 Ultra Cameo submissions, this being one of two with a Star designation. The service shows two more submissions in PR67 Ultra Cameo and one additional example in PR68 Ultra Cameo (11/17).

    This is a spectacular Flowing Hair stella with dramatic contrast and a classic orange-peel texture to the fields. Strongly struck, the central motifs display the horizontal striations always encountered. A lintmark above star 2 acts as a pedigree identifier in the place of post-Mint contact. Sure to hold a place of unparalleled significance in any future set.
    Ex: Richmond Collection, Part I (David Lawrence Rare Coins, 7/2004), lot 1303.
    From The Kerry Rudin Collection. (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.

    View all of [The Kerry Rudin Collection ]

    View Certification Details from NGC

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2018
    3rd-8th Wednesday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 22
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