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    Description

    1879 Flowing Hair Stella, Unc Details, Judd-1635
    Iconic Denomination Rarity

    1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3 -- Tooled -- PCGS Proof Genuine. Unc Details. Roger Burdette's article, "Louis Garnett, Wheeler Hubbell, and the Goloid Fiasco," published in the Spring 2015 issue of the Journal of Numismatic Research, does a remarkably thorough job in examining the production processes that led to the striking of four dollar gold stellas in 1879 and 1880. As usual, Burdette's meticulous research covers all aspects from the origins of Hubbell's alloy to his proposal for a metric coinage system, the reason for the four dollar denomination, the involvement of Rep. Alexander H. Stephens, the designer(s) of the stella, quantities produced, how they were distributed, and more.

    Burdette addresses the topic of so-called "original" 1879 Flowing Hair stellas. This has been the subject of considerable debate with some arguing unflinchingly for their existence, others denying it outright. Whereas researchers have previously pursued characteristics like weight, striations, and composition as determinants of originals, Burdette clarifies William Wheeler Hubbell's own thoughts on the appearance of the so-called original 25 stellas. He cites a letter from Hubbell to Mint Director Horatio Burchard from March 1, 1880, where the inventor gives precise instructions for preparing the stella planchets for striking:

    "We have tested heretofore three modes of finish: one acid, one acid and alkaline, and one alkaline. The acid finish disengages too much of the copper, and leave the coin artificially pale on the face. The late Stellas (25) in this respect were too pale. ... In the finish of the gold and goloid coin, therefore, please use at first on the planchet only a weak solution of acid, to remove the soluble oxide of copper, wash off the acid, and then immerse the planchet in the alkaline solution of muriate of ammonia in water, 1 pound to a half gallon, for about a half hour."



    Assuming Hubbell's suggestion for finishing the planchets was implemented (and effective), the first batch of 25 stellas should be distinguishable by their pale yellow-gold color versus the deeper orange-gold hue of later strikes -- at least they would have been. An unknown number of 1879 Flowing Hair stellas have since been wiped, dipped, circulated, and otherwise altered, making it impossible to compare the original surface coloration of many survivors. Such is the case with the present coin, which exhibits tool marks on Liberty's cheek and light hairlines in the fields. Reflectivity remains in the mirrors, and each side displays rich orange-gold color -- but whether or not the tangerine hue is original is impossible to know. To the unaided eye, this stella is appealing and displays excellent detail. The collector seeking a still-good-looking example of this famous rarity without spending enormous funds may wish to give this piece close consideration.


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    Oct-Nov, 2016
    31st-2nd Monday-Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
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