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1879 Flowing Hair Stella, NGC PR67
While the famous “Stella” four dollar gold pieces of 1879 are available for those will ample funds, most survivors are either impaired or reside below the PR65 level. Approximately 425 of these patterns were struck for distribution to congressmen. The goal was to seek approval for the coin to be produced for circulation, per the idea of U.S. envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary to Austria-Hungary, John A. Kasson. The four dollar denomination was Kasson’s proposed solution to facilitate international trade between America and several European countries. By the nature of their distribution, the coins were simply not well cared for. To the recipients, the gold patterns were tokens of a sort, and were meant to be held, rubbed, carried in their pockets, and otherwise aggressively handled. It is documented in the early numismatic press that many of the Stellas were given as gifts to ladies-of-the-night by congressmen who frequented Washington, D.C. brothels. For this reason we find many survivors that are ex-jewelry and/or cleaned. Research by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth, as documented in their Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins, indicates that the average grade of a Flowing Hair Stella offered at auction between 1991 and 2005 was only MS63.4. The same reference notes that the average certified population for the issue is MS64.4.
The current offering is one of the few examples that has benefited from careful custodianship from the day it was struck until today. It is an exquisite representative in all regards, having memorable field-to-device contrast and pristine surface quality. The ubiquitous roller marks observed on nearly every known survivor miraculously absent on this specimen, having been negated by a powerful strike. The last NGC PF67 Stella to be auctioned was back in August of 2006 which realized $402,500, and a similar coin with cameo designation (PF67CAM) NGC realized $403,500 in May of 2008. The population on this coin is (5) in NGC with none finer. Worth noting in the past 20 years, only (7) PF67 Stella’s in all designations (Non-Cameo, Cameo and Deep Cameo) that have been sold at auction which is less than once every other year.
Perpetual demand for the four dollar Stella adds constant strain to the limited supply. Unimpaired and high grade survivors are particularly sought after and the ever-increasing prices realized for the issue bares evidence of this fact. The pattern is so popular that it is routinely listed under regular U.S coin issues in price guides and it holds a permanent place in the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins reference. This well preserved specimen–one of the finest known for the type–is indisputably an American classic, steeped with historical significance and unparalleled beauty.
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