Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 70

press UP arrow key to increase the zoom ratio.
press DOWN arrow key to decrease the zoom ratio.
press RIGHT arrow key to increase the zoom window size.
press LEFT arrow key to decrease the zoom window size.

Lot 2059

1879 Flowing Hair. NGC graded Proof 63 Cameo. Light golden toning and a nice example for the given grade. Only 425 struck. A bright gleaming gold specimen with some deeper accents of color in the fields. Cameo frosted motifs receive their support from the fine reflective fields, and account for the a pleasing contrast plus the choice grade it deserves. The coin is a above-average for the issue, with only a trace of soft detail in some of Liberty's hair curls. Faint mint-caused striations are found at the centers, as is almost always the case on Stellas; we are unaware of exceptions to this. Surfaces are free of problems. Devices, the same. The grade captures the soul of this coin's originality. All in all, we are presenting to bidders a marvelous Cameo Proof 63 example of a rare and widely admired issue. Pop 12; 69 finer

The four dollar gold piece, known as the "Stella," is one of the most prestigious and sought-after of all United States gold rarities. The derivation of the term Stella is one that, while often repeated in numismatic circles, is not completely understood by many. When gold coins were first struck in the Mint in 1795, they were based on a unit of value called the 'eagle.' The eagle was equal in value to ten dollars and it also had a factual design of an eagle on one side. If the eagle is worth ten dollars, it would follow that a half eagle would be worth half that amount, a quarter eagle two and a half dollars, and so on.

The four dollar gold piece, when it came along in 1879-80 (the new denomination was proposed by John Kasson, an inveterate "doer" politician, as an international metric coin), was also a new base unit for gold coins, and called a Stella. Similar to the eagle on other gold coins denominated on the ten dollar gold standard, the statutory "Stella" has a star on the reverse, since 'Stella' means star in Latin. Charles E. Barber, the Philadelphia Mint's chief engraver, engraved the dies for the Flowing Hair Stella in 1879, although he modified a design earlier done by his father, William Barber, from the previous year (the father died in August of 1879).

With that as setting, this historic four-dollar gold piece was anticipated to solve a couple of vexing problems faced by the United States system of better items-metallic coinage in the 1870s. The first was to make a coin whose "intrinsic measure and value" as part of the design was sufficient to make it useful as an international trade coin. The other, as a bone tossed to the silver "Interests" as they were termed, was to strike these in an alloy that used either 4% silver or 10% silver, thereby increasing sales of this semi-precious metal by the silver mining states. (John Kasson's former chairmanship of the Committee on Coinage, Weights and Measures from 1863 to 1867 gave him experience in these matters.) For all its intended merits, the Stella project was in next to no time abandoned. And that, as they say, is the rest of the story! (PCGS # 88057) .

Historic sidenote about the confusing Judd & Pollock numbering schemes: Judd called all 1879 Flowing Hair Stellas struck in gold "J-1635." Later research developed the theory that the gold Stellas were produced in two different finenesses, to which Pollock assigned different numbers. The first, P-1832, represents pieces struck in 85.71 fine gold, 4.29 fine silver, and 10.0 fine copper. It is believed that these were the first 15 struck. Later, after interested parties requested samples of the new Pattern design, some 400 or more additional pieces were made on .900 fine gold planchets, those being designated P-1833. Students of the series find it difficult to distinguish between them other than by means of expensive non-destructive testing; the weights do differ slightly for the two metallic alloys.
Estimated Value $125,000 - 135,000.

Realized $149,500

Go to lot:  

Home | Current Sale | Calendar of Events | Bidding | Consign | About Us | Contact | Archives | Log In

US Coins & Currency | World & Ancient Coins | Manuscripts & Collectibles | Bonded CA Auctioneers No. 3S9543300
11400 W. Olympic Blvd, Suite 800, Los Angeles CA 90064 | 310. 551.2646 ph | 310.551.2626 fx | 800.978.2646 toll free

© 2011 Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, All Rights Reserved