Goldberg Coins and Collectibles



Sale 34


 
 
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Lot 1059

1879 $4 Gold. Flowing hair. NGC graded Proof 66. This is the historic pattern issue struck in gold, a resplendent 1879 $4 Flowing Hair "Stella", Judd-1635, Pollock-1832, Rarity-6. The history of the four dollar gold piece, or "stella," is ingrained in the late 19th century desire to produce U.S. coinage that would be acceptable on the international market. The dual denomination $5-25 francs pattern coinage of 1868 (Judd-656 through 659) is one of the earliest attempts in that direction. It was followed by Dana Bickford's 1874 pattern eagle (Judd-1373 through 1378) and, finally in the metric 1879-1880 Stellas. The Flowing Hair Liberty designed by Charles E. Barber, assistant engraver at the mint, was struck in two alloys in 1879. Twenty five coins (Pollock-1832) were produced in the metric alloy of 85.71% gold, 4.29% silver, and 10.0% copper. The Mint delivered these pieces to Congress as part of three-piece pattern sets. Increased demand for representations of the new denomination resulted in the production of a further 400 coins (Pollock-1833) in the standard alloy of 90.0% gold and 10.0% copper.

This piece is certainly among the finest ever recorded, as seen from the lack of heavy die striations in the central portion of the obverse that tend to weaken this area of most known 1879 flowing hairs. The fields are deeply mirrored and glassy with gorgeous mint frostiness on the devices, which gives the coin a noticeable cameo contrast. The usual tiny luster grazes that accompany many Proofs of this type are completely absent here, nor are there any errant specks of grease or orange copper areas -- thereby setting up an impression of first-class preservation and eye-appeal! The coin is housed in an NGC holder with its protective, non-tarnish material and is sure to be a hit with advanced bidders to the sale. Pop 9; 2 better at this level. (PCGS # 8057) .

As envisioned by Honorable John A. Kasson, United States minister to Austria in 1879, the $4 gold or Stella, was named for the star that dominates the reverse design (Latin: stella=star). Kasson also served as chair of the Committee of Coinage, Weights, and Measures earlier in his congressional career. He was a steadfast advocate of the United States developing a coinage that would be valued and weighed metrically, as used in Europe, and would thus pass at a par with such well-used world gold issues as the Spanish 20 pesetas, Austrian eight florins, Italian 20 lire, Dutch eight florins, and the French 20 francs. The Committee of Coinage, Weights, and Measures took up Kasson's proposal, advancing the suggestion that a name "suitable for the four-dollar coin would be 'one stella' analogous to one eagle, both the star and the eagle being national emblems on our coins."

Kasson's proposal did not break new ground, as mentioned above. Foreign exchange rates of the time were seldom regular, and even a denomination such as Kasson's proposed $4 coinage would never precisely fit the exchange rates of the day nor match the coins of Europe it sought to compete with -- it would still require some agency to make exchange computations and give change using other smaller denominations. Despite this, Kasson's $4 denomination was greeted with congressional interest. Both Charles E. Barber and George T. Morgan were responsible for designs of the $4 gold piece. Those designed by Barber bore a portrait of Liberty with hair loose and flowing, today called the "Flowing Hair" type, as offered here, while Morgan's design showed a more austere Liberty, hair tightly coiled and coiffed, the "Coiled Hair" type.
Estimated Value $170,000 - 200,000.

 
Realized $212,750
 



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