1879 Flowing Hair $4 Proof 62 PCGS
Gold Shield Holder. Always a special coin of interest to this writer is the 1879 and 1880 $4 gold "Stella." 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 eagle were produced, but the most serious attempts came in 1879. That year, America's minister to Austria, John A. Kasson, proposed a $4 gold coin with a metallic content stated in the metric system, making it easier for Europeans to use and understand. 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 some other gold patterns. Congress became interested enough in Kasson's suggestion to order the Mint to produce a limited run of the $4 gold coins so that Congressmen could review them. 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 similar obverse portrait with coiled hair. Each design was struck in both 1879 and 1880. The designers decided on the nickname "Stella" for this new coin as there is a large central star on the reverse and the word stella means star in Latin.
The 1879 Flowing Hair version is the most available of the four known varieties, as this was the first version produced for Congressional inspection. Although 425 pieces were supposedly coined, it is likely that as many as 725 pieces were eventually struck in proof format. One numismatic legend states that some Congressmen gave their "Stellas" to their mistresses as gifts, hence the large number of impaired specimens known today with an ex-jewelry appearance. The other three varieties, 1879 Coiled hair, 1880 Flowing Hair, and 1880 Coiled Hair are very rare and highly sought after.
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 straw-golden highlights on the satiny devices. Noted are some light roller lines through the portrait as are seen 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)