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    Sparkling Gem Proof 1880 Flowing Hair Stella

    1880 $4 Flowing Hair. Judd-1657, Pollock-1857. PR65 NGC. R.6. The Barber design. Reeded Edge.From The Gold Rush Collection.
    This specimen is quite pleasing for a number of reasons. The mirror fields are excellent and show only the faintest signs of hairlines. The strike is fairly sharp for this issue, although we note minor weakness at the center of Liberty's head as nearly always seen. The striation lines from the planchet rolling process run down to the left at approximately a 70 degree angle from horizontal. Identifiable by a tiny thin scratch on Liberty's temple which extends horizontally into her hair, and also by a spot on the lower obverse between the 6 and the star above, touching both. Another spot is seen on the outer point of the star between A and M. One the reverse we note a minute planchet flake located below the upper top serif on the E of STATES. There is also a tiny copper spot above the tail of the R in AMERICA. The NGC and PCGS population reports show a total of an even dozen graded this high, with just three pieces seen finer of this issue.
    Following a suggestion from Honorable John A. Kasson, minister to Austria from America, a gentleman who traveled widely, the $4 piece was conceived as being interchangeable at par (more or less) with similarly sized gold coins issued by various European nations. To promote international acceptance and ready determination of its metallic content, the obverse inscription was stated in the metric system, and noted that the $4 contained 6 parts gold, .3 parts silver, and .7 parts copper, yielding 7 grams of alloy, 90% gold as stated.
    The reverse stated the denomination as "ONE STELLA 400 CENTS," within a 5-pointed star. The long used motto E PLURIBUS UNUM appeared above, and the experimental motto DEO EST GLORIA below. Surrounding is the inscription: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA/FOUR DOL. Interestingly, the particular reverse design states the denomination three different ways possibly a good item to insert in a numismatic trivia contest. The value is given as "ONE STELLA," also as "400 CENTS," also as "FOUR DOL." Hopefully, there was nothing else left to the imagination!
    The idea of a freely interchangeable international coin had several fatal flaws, and, in essence, the concept was dead at the starting gate. First, the $4 Stella was never interchangeable on a one-to-one basis with other specific coins, as there would be some small amount of adjustment to be made to reflect different values. Secondly, even if the $4 were interchangeable at a given time, exchange rates varied then, as now, and the parity would soon be lost.
    It is probably the case that the 1879 $4 pieces were struck simply to answer the call for creating such a denomination for inspection, without any serious Treasury Department thought of using it. Additional pieces were struck of the Flowing Hair design in 1880, and of the Coiled Hair design (by Charles E. Barber) in 1879 and 1880, in small quantities, and not disclosed to the numismatic community. Information concerning these other issues was not generally available until early in the 20th century when their existence was publicized by Edgar H. Adams.
    Although the 1879 $4 was made as a pattern and, of course, still is, the uniqueness of the denomination made it popular with numismatists, and in short order the 1879 Stella was incorporated into many collections, eventually into catalogs and price lists. Likewise, the 1880 issues are also included by many collectors. Today, Stellas are primarily collected by numismatists in general, rather than pattern specialists.

    Roster of 1880 Flowing Hair Stella:
    1. Neil Specimen. Gem Brilliant Proof. 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: 1138 $41,000.
    The reverse has a prominent stain on the E of ONE and a spot below M of UNUM.
    2. Trompeter Specimen. Proof-64 (PCGS). B. Max Mehl, 1950: 244; Amon Carter, Sr.; Amon Carter, Jr.; Stack's 1/1984: 633 $68,750; Ed Trompeter Collection; Superior, 2/25/1992: 135 $77,000; Bowers and Merena 5/1992: 1470 $39,050; Heritage 9/1998: 7106.
    The obverse has a long thin toning streak extending down from the base of the first 7.
    3. Massachusetts Historical Society Specimen. Gem Brilliant Proof. Stack's, 10/1970: 807; Stack's FPL Summer 1997 offered as part of a four piece set for $875,000.
    The obverse has a faint toning spot below the right side of the second 8 in the date and a tiny spot just right of the hair, level with star 11. The reverse has a small curved toning line between DOL. and the final A of AMERICA.
    4. Delp Specimen. Gem Brilliant Proof. Stack's, 11/1972: 791 $17,000.
    The obverse has a small spot in the right field just left of star 11. The reverse has a small spot below the right edge of the period following DOL.
    5. Paramount Specimen. Gem Proof. Paramount, 1974 ANA: 873 $40,00.
    The reverse has a tiny spot over the D of DOL. and level with the top of T in EST.
    6. Rio Rancho Specimen. Proof-65 (NGC). Superior, 10/1974: 134 $35,000; Auction '79: 801 $50,000; Auction '80: 386 $105,000; Superior 6/1988: 6731 $84,700; Heritage 2/1995: 5837 $77,000.
    The reverse has a small spot below the second U of UNUM. Several other microscopic spots appear in the reverse fields.
    7. Winthrop Specimen. Brilliant Proof. Bowers and Ruddy 9/1975: 583 $31,000; Abner Kreisberg, 9/1980: 1275 $52,000.
    The obverse has a horizontal line-like toning streak below the digit 8.
    8. Garrett Specimen. Proof-65 (PCGS). Johns Hopkins University; Bowers and Ruddy 11/1979: 432 $65,000; Superior 10/1989: 4297 $297,000.
    The reverse has a tiny spot between T and E of STATES and a short line-like toning streak from the right base of I in AMERICA to the R of GLORIA. A similar, smaller toning line is visible in the field between O of GLORIA and the star. A tiny spot is visible just at the dentil tips between ER of AMERICA.
    9. Mehl Specimen. Choice Brilliant Proof.B. Max Mehl, unidentified sale, lot 863; Auction '80: 1451 $65,000.
    A tiny spot is noted at the dentil tips midway between the final A of AMERICA and the period.
    It is possible that the notation in the description for Auction '80 was a mis-print for lot 803 in a Mehl sale which would suggest that this is the coin from Mehl's 1944 sale of the Roach collection.
    10. DuPont Specimen. Proof-65+ Sotheby's 9/1982: 251; Stack's-Superior 12/1988: 285 $72,600.
    The obverse has a small spot left of the lower point of star 2.
    11. Eliasberg Specimen. Proof-67. Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Louis E. Eliasberg, Jr.; Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982: 318 $55,000.
    The obverse has a few insignificant spots: below base of the first seven and level with the junction of the hair and forehead, at the dentil tips between the second 7 and the star following, and centered on the cheek about level with the upper lip. This latter spot appears to have a short vertical line-like flaw beneath. The reverse has a tiny spot in the field next to an edge of the star and over the E of ONE. Another spot appears just next to a star edge level with the I in GLORIA.
    12. Auction '84 Specimen. Proof-65 (PCGS). Auction '84: 1913 $61,600; Rarcoa 8/1991: 967 $96,250
    The reverse has a spot in the left field, close to the edge of the star, level with the upper end of the dash.
    13. Boyd Specimen. Proof-65 (NGC). Stack's 5/1985: 1343 $63,250; Superior 5/1992 $91,850. It is believed that the present coin is number 5 above. Many of the prior auction appearances are poorly illustrated and these coins are virtually identical in a small photograph. Additional research may be possible to determine which prior sales this coin came from.(Registry values: P2)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 28B3, PCGS# 8059)

    Weight: 7.00 grams

    Metal: 86% Gold, 4% Silver, 10% Copper

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

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2005
    12th-15th Wednesday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 17
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,657

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