J-1658 (J1658) 1880 $4 PCGS Genuine. Copper Gilt R-7. This guilt four-dollar pattern piece shows mint luster within the devices. Some darker patches are seen around the portrait especially on the right and on the lower left reverse. The coin is well struck on the reverse and shows some slight weakness on the obverse on TY and the hair below. The 1880 (J-1658) Stella, its name from the large five-pointed star on the reverse, was designed by Charles Barber. Called the Flowing Hair Type, it shows a profile of 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 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.
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.
In 1879 the first Stellas were minted. They were then restruck in 1880 with the 1879 date and the 1880 date. ( Another Stella pattern coin with a different obverse called the Coiled Hair was designed by George T. Morgan. They were clandestine issues made for members of Congress.) In general 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.
The original plan, devised by Representative John Adam Kasson, a Republican from Iowa, was to solve the problem of what precious metal to use for coinage that would be internationally acceptable. He wanted coinage that would be comparable to the British sovereign, the Italian 20 lire, and the Spanish 20 pesetas. Each of these coins was smaller than a half eagle and widely used in international trade. He devised the idea of the Stella, coins of “metric gold” that contained 10% silver and dollars of “goloid” that were silver and contained 4% gold.
All Stellas are rare in any condition. They were struck in gold, aluminum, copper, and white metal. The 1880 Flowing Hair is a pattern (J-1658) made from copper that has been gilded. It is an L7 rarity (7-12 pieces are known to exist). In its population report, PCGS shows 20 certified in all metals and in all grades, which also does not account for resubmissions and crossovers.