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Gold Stella - Stella $4 Gold Coins: An Overview

Gold Stella

Gold Stellas 1879-1880: The four dollar “Stellas” were developed from the mistaken idea that international trade would be facilitated if the United States had a coin that was roughly the equivalent in value to certain coins of other trading nations. It was felt that the four dollar coin would be approximately equal to the Austrian 8 florins, Dutch 8 florins, French 20 francs, Italian 20 lire, and Spanish 20 pesetas. This idea was mistaken because currencies fluctuate in value. Also gold coins would be valued by their weight and fineness not their denomination for international trade. Nonetheless, John A. Kasson, the United States Ambassador to Austria-Hungary, prevailed and convinced Congress of the need for these coins.

There were two types of Stellas. The first was designed by Charles Barber. It is called the Flowing Hair Type. It shows Liberty facing left with her hair loosely tied behind wearing a band inscribed LIBERTY. The words of the inscription 6 G .3 S .7 C 7 G R A M S separated by stars surround Liberty. The reverse, which was common to both types, shows a large five pointed star inscribed with ONE STELLA followed by 400 CENTS. Surrounding the star are the words DEO EST GLORIA and E PLURIBUS UNUM. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA arc above the star and previous inscription, and words FOUR DOL. are below. The second obverse type was designed by George Morgan. It has the same inscriptions as the Barber type, but Liberty is seen with her hair stylishly coiled.

Charles E. Barber was the sixth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint. He served from 1879 to 1917. He is best known for his designs of the “Barber” dime, quarter, and half dollar. In addition he designed the Liberty Head nickel, several commemoratives, and the Flowing Hair Stella pattern. Barber was born in London in 1840. He came to the United States in 1852 with his family. His father became an engraver at the Mint in Philadelphia. Following Longacre’s death, William Barber became the Chief Engraver and made his son, Charles, his assistant. After his father’s death in 1879, Charles became the Chief Engraver despite the fact the George T. Morgan may have been more qualified or at least more talented.

George T. Morgan was born in 1845 in Birmingham, England. In 1876 he came to the United States and was hired to be an Assistant Engraver at the Mint. It was understood that William Barber would soon retire so there would be a place for Morgan to work. In 1878 Morgan designed a Liberty head for the new dollar. Although they languished for years in bank vaults, today they are among the most popular coins and collectors’ favorites. When William Barber died in 1879, his relatively untalented son, Charles, became the Engraver. Morgan finally became Engraver after Charles died in 1917. Morgan remained Chief Engraver until he died in 1925.

In 1879 the first Stellas were minted. They were then restruck in 1880 with the 1879 date. All were the flowing hair type. The Morgan obverses were also struck in 1879 but are very rare with this date. More were later struck in 1880. They were clandestine issues made for members of Congress. More congressmen were able to obtain Stellas than were coin collectors. Newspapers of the time ran stories about Washington D.C. madams who had necklaces made from Stellas. Many pieces that are seen today have evidence of solder removal.

All Stellas are rare in any condition. NGC has a total of 254 in all grades, and PGCS has 354.The 1879 Stella Flowing Hair certified by PCGS has a population in proof 63 cameo of 6 with 38 better. The 1879 proof 66 has an NGC population of 29 with 0 better. The 1880 Flowing Hair is a pattern (J-1658). It is made from copper and has been gilded. It is an L7 rarity (7-12 pieces are known to exist). The 1880 Coiled Hair Stella is also a pattern (J-1661). It is made from copper and has a 6 on the rarity scale. (13-30 pieces are known to exist.)

Specifications:
Edge: Reeded
Weight: 6.998 grams (108 grains) (0.2250 troy ounces)
Diameter: 22 millimeters
Composition: 91.76% gold, 8.33% copper
Gold Content: 6.422 grams (99.10 grains) (0.2065 troy ounces)

 
DATE NOTES
1879 Flowing Hair: Charles Barber’s design saw a mintage of about 425. Since 531 have been certified, there are many resubmissions and crossovers. The finest known is a single PFUC68 at NGC. - 1879 $4 Gold Stella NGC PF63 CAMEO
1879 Coiled Hair: George T. Morgan’s design had an estimated mintage of 15. There have been many crossovers and resubmissions because 25 have been certified. The finest are 3 PFCA67 at NGC.
1880 Flowing Hair: Only 20 to 25 are known. 45 have been certified by both services. The finest are 2 PFCA67 at NGC.
1880 Coiled Hair: Only 8 to 10 are known. 20 have been certified by both services. The finest are 3 PFCA67 at NGC.


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Gold Stella Stella $4 Gold Coins $4 Gold Stella

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