Memorable 1880 Coiled Hair Gem Cameo Proof Stella1880 $4 Coiled Hair. Judd-1660. Pollock-1860. PR66 Cameo NGC. R.7. The Morgan design. Reeded Edge. An exceptional Cameo Proof with mirrored fields and frosted devices, some light mint frost visible in the reverse field. A few very faint hairlines are noted. Lovely gold with traces of purplish-copper hints particularly on the edge. This is a superb, sharply detailed specimen. In reviewing the NGC and PCGS population reports we note a total of three specimens which have been graded this high, with another three coins seen finer. This particular coin has a tiny planchet flake below the right leg of the M on the reverse, on the obverse there is a tiny flake in the field between Liberty's hair bun and the star between A and M. The obverse striations run roughly at a 70 degree descending angle and are present on Liberty's head. Obverse: Head of Liberty faces left, her hair coiled in a bun atop her head, this coil held in place by a band inscribed LIBERTY. Around, the inscription * 6 * G * .3 * S * .7 * C * 7 * G * R * A * M * S * and below, the date 1880 from a curved logotype. Evidence of repunching is visible in the upper loop of the second 8 in the date. Reverse: A single large star serves as the central motif, inscribed with incuse lettering ONE STELLA 400 CENTS. Around, in small letters, the mottoes E PLURIBUS UNUM and DEO EST GLORIA. In large letters, around the border, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA above, and the denomination FOUR DOL. below. This is the same reverse die found on the gold stellas, with the D in UNITED doubled, the original impression above the final location.
International coinage had been proposed before, with one relevant entry by Dana Bickford in 1874. Bickford was a New York businessman and the inventor of automatic knitting machines. After experiencing difficulty traveling through Europe and contending with various exchange rates, he devised a plan for international coinage based on the systems of several countries. The Bickford eagle had the following denominations physically incorporated as part of the design: 10 dollars; 2 pounds, 1 shilling, 1 pence sterling; 41.99 marken, 37.31 kronen, 20.73 gulden, and 51.81 francs. The fineness and weight was also displayed so that the exact current value at any time could be determined in any country, based on the value of gold. Patterns were issued in gold, copper, aluminum, and nickel. Again, presumably after much debate, the proposal was turned down by Congress.
Another international coinage experiment was advanced by Hon. John Kasson, United States Minister to Austria. Kasson was formerly Chairman of the Committee of Coinage, Weights and Measures. He suggested to the Secretary of State, that a United States coin should be produced with a value close to the Austrian eight florins coin. Given exchange rates of that time, the value of an Austrian eight florins coin was just under $3.90, and very similar to the value of other foreign gold coins then in circulation. A four-dollar gold coin was the logical choice. [Near the end of this historical appreciation are listed details of various foreign gold coins of the period]. John Kasson's suggestions were communicated to Secretary of the Treasury John Sherman and to Alexander Stephens, Chairman of the Coinage Committee. Details of the proposal were provided by Dr. Wheeler W. Hubbell, an advocate of the metric system of coinage and holder of the patent for the goloid composition. The Pennsylvania resident was the logical choice for this work. According to Edgar H. Adams and William H. Woodin in their 1913 referenceUnited States Pattern, Trial, and Experimental Pieces, the new denomination, the Stella, was named as an analogy to one eagle, both the star and eagle being National emblems on our coinage. The present coin is likely number 2 or number 5 below.
Roster of 1880 Coiled Hair Stella:
1. Trompeter Specimen. Gem Brilliant Proof. Ex:B. Max Mehl, 6/1947: 2603 sold as part of a set for $3,850; Grant Pierce; Stack's, 1976 ANA: 2920 sold as part of a set for $225,000; Stack's 12/1981 $135,000; Ed Trompeter Collection; Superior, 2/25/1992: 136 $264,000; Stack's, 10/1995 $308,000.
The reverse has a dark toning line down from the star above D of DOL.
2. Kern Specimen. Gem Brilliant Proof. Ex: B. Max Mehl, 1950: 245 sold as part of a set for $4,100; Amon Carter, Sr.; Amon Carter, Jr.; Stack's, 1/1984: 634 $72,250.
The reverse has a dark toning line up from the dentils between DOL. and the final A of AMERICA.
3. Delp Specimen. Brilliant Proof. Ex: Stack's, 11/1972: 792 $35,000; Stack's FPL Summer 1997 offered as part of a four piece set for $875,000.
The plate suggests a diagonal toning line in the field at the throat.
4. Davies Specimen. Proof. Ex: Paramount, 2/1975: 547 $67,500; Bowers and Ruddy Rare Coin Review #26, p. 64.
Very lightly cleaned with faint hairlines. The most prominent pedigree marker is a horizontal line-like scrape on the back edge of the neck just above the neck truncation. This is located directly above the digit 0 in the date. The reverse has a short diagonal scratch below the U of UNUM.
,5. DuPont Specimen. Proof-66 (PCGS). Ex: Sotheby's, 9/1982: 252, $102,300; Superior, 8/1991: 707 $440,000.
The obverse has a small spot just below and left of the chin and another over G. The reverse has a minor fingerprint pattern of toning below the star right of EST.
6. Eliasberg Specimen. Proof-65. Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Louis E. Eliasberg, Jr.; Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982: 319 $99,000.
The obverse has a small spot between the digit 1 and star 1, about level with the serif of the 1 in the date. Another tiny spot on the obverse is midway between the junction of the hair and neck and star 12. A third obverse spot is above the period preceding the 3.
7. Smithsonian Specimen. National Numismatic Collection.
8. Lilly Specimen. Smithsonian Institution.
9. Memorable Specimen. Proof-64 (NGC). Numismatic Gallery, J.F. Bell Collection, 3/1/1948: 282; Stack's 3/1999: 136. Illustrated in Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins.
Additional auction appearances which may represent coins listed above.
S.H. and H. Chapman 5/1906: 1456 $370.
Woodin (Adams) 2/1911: 181.
B. Max Mehl, Grinnell Collection, 6/15/1943: 187 $850.
B. Max Mehl, Olsen Collection, 11/7/1944: 621 $1,075.
King Farouk, Sotheby's 2/1954: 323 $1,922.90 offering both types of 1880 as a pair.
Abner Kreisberg, 2/1961: 1150.
Abner Kreisberg, 1/1963: 1940.
Paramount (1973). Wilkison Specimen, Polished. Possibly ex King Farouk.(#88060) (Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 28B4, PCGS# 88060)
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