Coin Specifications

Category: Four Dollar Stella (1879-1880)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 10
Catalog: KM-Pn1723
Obverse Designer: George T. Morgan
Composition: Gold
Fineness: 0.8600
Weight: 7.0000g
AGW: 0.1935oz
Melt Value: $249.23 (8/30/2014)
Diameter: 22mm
Edge: Reeded
Numismatic specification data provided by Krause Publications NumisMaster.
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1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF obverse 1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF reverse


  
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Description & Analysis

The background of the stella is rooted in the attempt of 19th century America to solve the silver/gold relationship as well as create an international coinage. While some of Walter Breen's research has been repudiated in the years since his death, his grasp of the two issues that drove the mint to create the stella bears repeating: 'This silver/gold 'rivalry' was to become subject matter for thousands of learned papers and books exhibiting mostly their authors' ignorance, reams of futile congressional debates, and eventually the main issue of the 1896 and 1900 presidential campaigns, inspiring William Jennings Bryan's obfuscatory 'Cross of Gold' speech. Underlying all the rhetoric were official policies only partly concealing the real issue, which was subsidies to wealthy mine owners while people starved in the streets.'

After Prussia went on the gold standard and dumped 8,000 tons of silver on the international metals market, the situation worsened for mine owners and silver proponents. New outlets were needed. The internationally accepted Trade dollar promoted Comstock silver abroad with an extra grain of silver in each coin to help guarantee acceptance of these coins (mostly in China). Also, the Bland-Allison Act was passed in 1878 and led to the creation of the Morgan dollar and the government requirement to purchase between two and four million ounces of silver per month of 'new' silver. Additionally, an international coinage was proposed in 1879 by Rep. John Kasson for a metric gold coinage that would contain both gold and 10% silver. These are the coins that we know today as stellas.

As Mark Borckardt pointed out, it is doubtful that such planchets were actually produced. It would have been more expedient for the purposes of pattern coinage to simply cut down half eagle planchets that were alloyed with 10% copper. After all, the purpose of pattern coinage was to give an idea of what such coins would look like, rather than be technically correct, and the difference between a 10% copper alloy and 10% silver alloy would be visually imperceptible. The difference would only have been important if the denomination had actually been adopted. In that case, a 10% alloy of silver in a widely circulating gold coin would have absorbed a significant amount of Comstock ore.

Two designs were executed for the proposed four dollar gold piece. The design that is usually seen is by Chief Engraver Charles Barber and depicts Liberty with flowing hair curls. The other design, and the one that we see in this lot, was designed by Barber's assistant, George Morgan. His design shows Liberty's hair tightly coiled on top of her head. Numismatists and art critics may debate the relative merits of each design, but it is clear that Morgan had more to lose with a so-so design than Barber did. Morgan had been stung by public criticism of the eagle on the adopted 1878 dollar design. Some said it more resembled a turkey, and others said it was just plain ugly. Apparently Morgan took the criticism to heart. In 1879 he created the 'Schoolgirl' series of patterns, and ten years later the 'Shield Earring' dollars. Both designs are unquestionably among the most artistically accomplished patterns of the 19th century. The Coiled Hair stella was also created during this highpoint of creativity for George Morgan.

More than 400 pieces were struck of Charles Barber's Flowing Hair design and dated 1879. However, George Morgan's Coiled Hair design is so seldom seen that it is one of the premier gold rarities of the 19th century. Mintages for the four stella issues (Flowing Hair 1879, 1880 and Coiled Hair 1879, 1880) vary from one expert to another. The 1879 Coiled Hair has a reported mintage between 20 and 25 pieces. However, what is most important are the number of survivors. It is generally believed that 13 to 15 individual coins are known today.

George Morgan's design for the proposed international coinage of four dollar gold pieces was short-lived and soon forgotten by mint personnel, and by those in the circles of influence in Washington who briefly considered John Kasson's idea for a gold coin that could be accepted throughout Europe. Nevertheless, for those who pursue U.S. numismatics it provides an enduring legacy of a 19th century gold 'euro' and has remained one of the most famous and popular of all U.S. denominations.

Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.


GRADE SUMMARY

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Price Guide

Last Updated: 6/11/2013

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF
1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF Cameo
  GVGFVF40455053555864656667
Base $ - - - - - - - - - - 675000 790000 950000 1300000
$ - - - - - 725000 850000 1050000 1375000
NGC Price and Value Guides Disclaimer

Census

 
NGC GRADE SUMMARY

Total Graded: 13
Low Grade: 62
Average Grade: 65
High Grade: 67


Upcoming Auctions


Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Images
Date
Service
Grade
Auction House
Sale / Lot
Price
1/12/2005 NGC PF 67   Heritage Auctions 2005 Ft. Lauderdale FL. (FUN) Signature Sale #360, 360/Lot# 30041 $655,500.00
1/12/2005 NGC PF 67   Cameo Heritage Auctions 2005 Ft. Lauderdale FL. (FUN) Signature Sale #360, 360/Lot# 30042 $310,500.00
5/27/2007 NGC PF 63   Goldberg May 27-30, 2007 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 41/Lot# 1551 $414,000.00
2/1/2009 NGC PF 63   Goldberg February 1-4, 2009 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 51/Lot# 1433 $304,750.00
9/23/2013 NGC PF 67   Cameo Bonhams The Tacasyl Collection of Magnificent United States Proof Gold Coins, 20992/Lot# 1009 $1,041,300.00
1/8/2014 PCGS PF 66   Heritage Auctions 2014 January 8 - 12 FUN US Coin Signature Auction - Orlando Session(3), 1201/Lot# 5405 $851,875.00


NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base11600118021200812216124271289313723138191391414098142771647917296188662015321928236692457025541265402819533823
1166711870120771228612582131691375513850139751415715011167511781919295207442250823969248932587427091300710
000000137551385013975141571501116751178191929520744225082396924893258742709100
000000137871388214036142171574517023183421972421336230882426925217262072764300
1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF Cameo
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base11978121861239712610128251330314152142511434714535152521886620153212532145521809229232413125580265802823633870
1204712256124681268112984135861418514283144091477416456192952051921320215732218023325246142591327132301140
000000141851428314409147741645619295205192132021573221802332524614259132713200
000000142181431514472150131766119724208862138721691225512372825097262462768400
1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF Ultra Cameo
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base12577127201293713152133751386514725148551494415143172961914220271213552174923366251902613427150281952992435800
1262412792130081322613538141511476814884150101586017911195182063221486222882397425504264722749828771318820
000000147681488415010158601791119518206322148622288239742550426472274982877100
000000148111491415076165781852619894209932161722827245822581926811278462934700
Registry Image Gallery

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