1879 Flowing Hair $4 Proof 61 NGC
The four dollar gold piece, or "Stella," (its official name per the enabling legislation) 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 recapped 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, equal in value to ten dollars, 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 was proposed in 1879-80 (the new denomination was the brainchild of John Kasson as an international metric coin), was meant to be a new base unit for gold coins. The planners decided on the name of Stella. Similar to the eagle and other gold coins based on the ten dollar gold standard, the statutory "Stella" has a star on the reverse, since 'Stella' means star in Latin. Charles Barber 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 had died in August of 1879).
A sparkling Proof example of a collectible quality for this beautiful design with nicely reflective fields supporting the raised, lightly frosted devices. Gleaming luster blends effortlessly with pale golden highlights on the satiny devices. Noted are some light roller lines through the portrait and star as on most of the issue. Sharp throughout; some minor hairlines and handling marks are visible under close scrutiny. Just a glance at the present lot will serve to underscore the reason bidders will eagerly vie for it. (PCGS 8057)