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1879 $4 Flowing Hair Stella
PCGS No:  
Mintage Circulation strikes: Estimate of 425
Proofs: Finest Smithsonian Institution specimen: PF-66
Designer: Charles Barber
Diameter: 22 millimeters
Metal content: Gold
Weight: 6.998 grams (108 grains) (0.2250 troy ounces)
Edge: Reeded

The $4 gold coin was produced as a potential international trade coin. Charles Barber created the Flowing Hair design, and around 425 coins were struck so that congressmen could review them.

The idea failed, and the Stella was never minted for circulation. Many examples were kept as pocket pieces, as there are numerous coins seen today with a great deal of wear or damage.

The exact mintage for the issue is unknown. It has been speculated that around 15 coins were struck in 1879, these being so-called originals. The surfaces of these examples are deeply mirrored, and lack die striations. A much larger number of coins were reportedly struck later, possibly in 1880.

These later coins are seen with lightly striated surfaces and with considerable mint frost for a Proof issue. The $4 gold Stella is one of the most desirable U.S. gold coins. Note: This coin is included among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins (Garrett and Guth 2005)

Beginning in the 1870s, several countries advocated the establishment of a universal coin that would correlate to several international currencies. A few efforts were made early in the decade, hence coins such as the 1874 Bickford Pattern Eagles were produced, but the most serious attempts came in 1879. That year, America's minister to Austria, John A. Kasson, proposed a Four Dollar gold coin with a metallic content stated in the metric system, making it easier for Europeans to use. Per Kasson's proposal, this new coin would approximate in value the Spanish 20 Peseta, Dutch 8 Florin, Austrian 8 Florin, Italian 20 Lire, and French 20 Franc piece, among other denominations. The purpose of the $4 gold coin was to facilitate international trade and travel for Americans-the same motivation behind the 1874 Bickford Eagle and other gold Patterns.

Congress became interested enough in Kasson's suggestion to order the Mint to produce a limited run of the Four Dollar gold pieces so that Congressmen could review the coins. Soon thereafter, Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber prepared an obverse design that depicted a portrait of Liberty facing left with long, Flowing Hair. Meanwhile, George Morgan created a motif featuring a portrait with Coiled Hair.

The 1879 Flowing Hair Stella is the most available of the four known varieties, as this was the version produced for Congress. Although 425 pieces were supposedly struck, it is likely that as many as 725 were minted in total. One numismatic legend states that most Congressmen gave their "Stellas" to mistresses as gifts, which would explain the large number of ex-jewelry specimens known today. The other three varieties, the 1879 Coiled Hair, the 1880 Flowing Hair, and the 1880 Coiled Hair are all significantly more rare.

Designed by Charles Barber, the Flowing Hair version features a portrait of Liberty with loose, fluid hair locks. At the edge, the inscription 6G3S7C7GRAMSis found, indicating the weights and standards of the coin.

On the reverse, the eponymous star is located in the center containing the words ONE STELLA 400 CENTS. Circumscribing the star are the words E PLURIBUS UNUM DEO EST GLORIA further encircled by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FOUR DOL.

The Coiled Hair version, designed by George T. Morgan, is similar, with the only difference being the obverse portrait. On the Coiled variety, Liberty is wearing a coronet and the hair is braided. The word LIBERTY is inscribed on the headband. Standards: weight 7 grams (although restrikes vary in exact weight); composition .857 gold/.042 silver/.100 copper; diameter 22 mm. Edge: reeded.
Rarity: 1879 Flowing Hair "Stellas" are by far the most common of the four varieties, with between 300-400 specimens known. The other three varieties are exceedingly scarce and number only a dozen or so survivors.

Historical Value (1879 Flowing Hair)
__________Choice Proof__________
1960: $5,000 . 1980: $25,000 . 2003: $75,000

Historical Value (1879 Coiled Hair)
___________Choice Proof___________
1960: $10,000 . 1980: $75,000 . 2003: $250,000


Historical Value (1880 Flowing Hair)
___________Choice Proof___________
1960: $10,000 . 1980: $ 45,000 . 2003: $125,000

Historical Value (1880 Coiled Hair)
___________Choice Proof___________
1960: $15,000 . 1980: $100,000 . 2003: $350,000

US Rare Coin Investments © 2003 - 2015 U.S. Rare Coin Investments

1879 $4 Flowing Hair Stella - $4 gold coin - $4 gold Stella
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