The NGC Universal ID is a four digit alphanumeric that groups coins based on a unique combination of date, mintmark, denomination and striking process (MS, PF, or SP). These IDs are a simple organization of all coins prior to variety attribution and grading.
The Morgan design. Obverse: Head of Liberty faces left, her hair coiled in a bun atop her head, this coil held in place by a band inscribed LIBERTY. Around, the inscription * 6 * G * .3 * S * .7 * C * 7 * G * R * A * M * S * and below, the date 1880 is from a curved logotype. Evidence of repunching is visible in the upper loop of the second 8 in the date. Reverse: A single large star serves as the central motif, inscribed with incuse lettering ONE STELLA 400 CENTS. Around, in small letters, are the mottoes E PLURIBUS UNUM and DEO EST GLORIA. In large letters, around the border, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA above, and the denomination FOUR DOL. below. Struck in gold with a reeded edge. The D in UNITED is clearly doubled above, as it is on all four dollar gold pieces that we have seen from 1879 and 1880.
George T. Morgan accepted an invitation from Mint Director Henry Linderman to join the staff as assistant engraver in 1876. Earlier he studied at the Birmingham Art School and the South Kensington Art School before taking a position with the Royal Mint in London. At the Philadelphia Mint, he worked under Engraver William Barber and later, his son, Charles Barber. Remaining at the Mint until his death nearly 50 years later in 1925, Morgan remained the assistant engraver until his promotion to engraver after Charles Barber died in 1917. There is little doubt that Morgan was more talented than Charles Barber, and there is also little doubt that Barber was jealous of Morgan's talent.
Today, Morgan is best known for his Liberty silver dollar that now popularly carries his name, the Morgan dollar. He also created numerous pattern designs, such as the heralded 1879 Schoolgirl dollar, and prepared other designs for the medal department. It is unfortunate that Morgan was excluded from the failed design competition of 1891 that ultimately led to the three silver Barber designs of 1892
The 1880 Coiled Hair issue is clearly the rarest of four varieties. In past rosters, we have only been able to account for eight different examples, but have now added a ninth example from the Dallas Bank Collection. For many years it was believed that just 10 pieces were struck, but it is more likely that 20 pieces were originally coined. A general rule for proof gold pieces from the mid- to late 1800s is that approximately half the original mintage survives. Like the 1879 Coiled Hair and 1880 Flowing Hair coins, the 1880 Coiled Hair is a major rarity from an extremely small mintage. Only the 1879 Flowing Hair stella could be called anything close to common, and that is the issue most often chosen by type collectors who want a single example of the stella. Of course, advanced specialists will want all four varieties, and are advised to take advantage of this offering.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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