Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 14

Coins, Collectibles and Memorabilia Auction

$4 Gold
Lot Photo Description Realized
Lot 3608
1880 $4 Gold. Flowing hair. PCGS graded Proof 64 Deep Cameo. One of the highlights of this (or any) sale, an 1880 Stella always commands attention whenever it appears. This particular one boasts lovely rich coppery gold color with satiny gold devices. The mirror fields are quite reflective and show no real signs of contact, just a few scattered hairlines randomly placed. Light planchet striations which run from 1 o'clock on the obverse down towards 7 o'clock, as always seen, caused during the planchet preparation process. Identifiable by a tiny dark fleck below the O in FOUR and another dark fleck below the post of the R of that word and a minute lint mark from the edge to the top left serif of the E in STATES. Sharp save for the curls on Liberty, with minor weakness there and on the TY of LIBERTY. Nice coppery gold color, with decent frost on the devices and well mirrored fields. A few minor hairlines account for the grade. In PCGS holder #06595332. The PCGS Population Report shows 1 in PR-63, 7 in PR-64, 10 in PR-65, 2 in PR-66 and 1 in PR-67 from the original estimated mintage of 35 pieces. Importantly, this is the only Deep Cameo graded of the date by PCGS and may have been the very first coin from the dies that year, as the Deep Cameo frost soon wears away as a few coins are struck. An impressive example and the Deep Cameo provides far more frost and eye appeal than the average proof issue, especially so in gold coinage.
As the 1870s unfolded, two international problems arose which agitated Congress and the Mint. The first was the ever changing ratio between the value of gold and silver. This was, of course, exacerbated by the wild swings caused by the discovery of gold in California in 1848, and again upset in the opposite direction by the discovery of huge silver deposits in Nevada in the 1870s. The massive quantities of California gold coming to market and being turned into coins in the early 1850s depressed the price of gold relative to silver, hence silver coins became more valuable (than gold coins, dollar for dollar), and Congress acted by reducing the amount of silver in minor coinage, and soon silver coins were restored to circulation (1853). The next international problem perceived by Congress was the need for an International exchange coin. The proposed Stella was the brainchild hatched to solve both international problems simultaneously. While the rivalry between the gold and silver ratio was subject to tremendous debate in both Congress, learned scholars and the press, few understood this until Neil Carothers wrote Fractional Money in 1930. Further disruptions included the Panic of 1857, brought on by the sinking of the S.S. Central America and enhanced by massive crop failures that year, then the Civil War unfolded, and banks suspended specie payments (banks would no longer redeem US Treasuries or even their own notes) on December 28, 1861. At this point, all coins vanished from circulation, and the only form of money available became private tokens, scrip, and fractional currency. Then in the early 1870s the discovery of the Comstock load and other silver deposits in Nevada created the exact opposite to the problem encountered in 1849-1853 when gold was discovered. What little gold was left in circulation disappeared. The silver mine owners grabbed the attention of Congress and the mints were soon buying all the silver produced at inflated prices and churning out hundreds of millions of Trade and Morgan Silver dollars, as silver at the time had no other significant use but for coinage. The international trade problem and the ever changing ratio of gold to silver moved to the forefront in 1879. Rep. Kasson cooked up the idea that a new coin should be made, a $4 piece with the new gold ratio of 90 percent gold and 10 percent silver (Metric gold) and these coins would be called Stellas; also proposed was a new dollar coin containing 96 percent silver and 4 percent gold (the Goloid patterns by Wheeler W. Hubbell). Two designs of Stellas were proposed, the flowing hair by Charles E. Barber, and the coiled hair by George T. Morgan. These Stellas were struck in limited numbers and handed out to Congressmen. Soon enough, the press reported that no collector could obtain a Stella from the Mint, but several were seen adorning the bosoms of the more prominent Madams who owned the bordellos frequented by the congressmen (Breen). After even the congressmen noticed that the metric gold looked just like ordinary coin gold (with a slightly different ratio of gold, silver and alloys) and the goloid patterns were indistinguishable from standard silver coins, the bill authorizing their production was terminated. Although scarce, these stellas remain enormously popular, and procuring an example is considered a right of passage for an advanced collection.
Estimated Value $65,000 - 70,000.
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