Coin Specifications

Category: Four Dollar Stella (1879-1880)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 15
Obverse Designer: George T. Morgan
Reverse Designer: Charles E. Barber
Composition: Gold
Fineness: 0.8600
Weight: 7.0000g
AGW: 0.1935oz
Melt Value: $362.42 (1/20/2021)
Diameter: 22mm
Edge: Reeded
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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: 8/20/2019

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

1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF
  GVGFVFXF505355586263656667
Base $ - - - - - - - - - 315000 400000 750000 975000 1250000
1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF CA
  GVGFVFXF50535558646667
Base $ - - - - - - - - - 675000 1375000 1600000

NGC Price and Value Guides Disclaimer

Disclaimer: The prices listed in the various NGC Price and Value Guides are compiled from a number of independent, third party sources in the numismatic community which NGC believes to be reliable. Prices provided are averages, not specific prices for individual coins. Further, because these prices are only updated from time to time, they do not reflect short term pricing trends, which are quite common and are often quite dramatic, given the volatile nature of the collectible coin marketplace. This is especially true for rare coins, where there are fewer sales and greater variations in sale prices. For all of these reasons, the prices in these guides are designed to serve merely as one of many measures and factors that coin buyers and sellers can use in determining coin values. These prices are not intended, and should not be relied upon, to replace the due diligence and — when appropriate — expert consultation that coin buyers and sellers should undertake when entering into a coin transaction. As such, NGC disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information contained in the NGC Guides. By using the NGC Guides, the user agrees that neither NGC nor any of its affiliates, shareholders, officers, employees or agents shall have any liability for any loss or damage of any kind, including without limitation any loss arising from reliance on the information contained in the Guides.

Census

 
NGC GRADE SUMMARY

Total Graded: 12
Low Grade: 62
Average Grade: 65
High Grade: 67

The chart showing 62 series, 63 series, 64 series, 65 series, 66 series, 67 series.
NGC CENSUS DETAIL Last Updated: 1/19/2021 1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970Total
Base-------------12-22----7
-----------------------
-----------------------
-----------------------
Total-------------12-22----7
 -------------14%29%-29%29%---- 
1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF CA
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970Total
Base-----------------23---5
-----------------------
-----------------1----1
-----------------------
Total-----------------33---6
 -----------------50%50%--- 

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF CA
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base11978121861239712610128251330314152142511434714535152521886620153212532145521809229232413125580265802823633870
12047122561246812681129841358614185142831440914774164561929520519213202157322180233252461425913271323011435564
000000141851428314409147741645619295205192132021573221802332524614259132713200
000000142181431514472150131766119724208862138721691225512372825097262462768400
1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF UC
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base12577127201293713152133751386514725148551494415143172961914220271213552174923366251902613427150281952992435800
12624127921300813226135381415114768148841501015860179111951820632214862228823974255042647227498287713188237590
000000147681488415010158601791119518206322148622288239742550426472274982877100
000000148111491415076165781852619894209932161722827245822581926811278462934700
1879 COILED HAIR $4 PF
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base11600118021200812216124271289313723138191391414098142771647917296188662015321928236692457025541265402819533823
11667118701207712286125821316913755138501397514157150111675117819192952074422508239692489325874270913007135514
000000137551385013975141571501116751178191929520744225082396924893258742709100
000000137871388214036142171574517023183421972421336230882426925217262072764300
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: PF 63
Points: 20153
Owner: Good Trimes
 
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NGC Auction Central Disclaimer

NGC Auction Central Disclaimer

Disclaimer: The auction prices realized listed in the NGC Auction Central are compiled from a number of independent, third party sources in the numismatic community which NGC believes to be reliable. The auction data listed by NGC may occasionally contain typographical or input errors that can result in incorrect prices realized appearing on the NGC website. Therefore, the prices realized listed in NGC Auction Central are designed to serve merely as one of many measures and facts that coin buyers and sellers can use in determining coin values. These prices are not intended, and should not be relied upon, to replace the due diligence and – when appropriate – expert consultation that coin buyers and sellers should undertake when entering into a coin transaction. As such, NGC disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information contained in the NGC Auction Central. By using the NGC Auction Central, the user agrees that neither NGC nor any of its affiliates, shareholders, officers, employees or agents shall have any liability for any loss or damage of any kind, including without limitation any loss arising from reliance on the information contained in the NGC Auction Central.