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Stella, $4.00 Gold Coin – 1879 – 1880

Learn About the Stella Pattern Coin and the Alloy Goloid

The “Stella” is a pattern $4.00 US gold coin. It was developed at the insistence of John A. Kasson, US envoy to Austria-Hungary at the time. They are made of an alloy called Goloid, which was developed by W. W. Hubbell, and is comprised of Silver, Gold and Copper.

Kasson wanted a coin that would compete directly with the Swiss 20 Franc, Italian 20 Franc, French 20 Franc and Spanish 20 Pesetas, as the US $5.00 Gold Half Eagle was larger than all of its competitors. This coin would compete directly with for trade in Europe. However, the goloid composition was not an exact match. The weight of the coin was 7 grams, as opposed to the 6.45 grams that were required. Likewise, the gold content was 6 grams as opposed to 5.81 grams and the fineness was .857 as opposed to, a .999 fine.  

Two different pattern designs were requested and the US Mint complied. Chief Engraver Charles Barber designed the “flowing hair” variety while his assistant, George T. Morgan, designed one with “coiled hair.” Other than the treatment of Miss Liberty’s hair, the coins were identical.

In each design, Miss Liberty is facing the left. The date is below her and she is surrounded by letters and stars, which describe the metallic content of the coin. The reverse depicts a large five-pointed star with “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” around the periphery with the denomination “FOUR DOL.” below. Between the star points are two inscriptions “E PLURIBUS UNUM” (Out of many, One) and “DEO EST GLORIA” (To God is the Glory).”

(1879 Charles Barber’s Design – Obverse [left] – Reverse [right].)

The original mintage of Barber’s coin design approximately 425 specimens, most of which were struck to develop support for the coin in Congress. These coins were later sold to the Congressmen at the cost of production. But the coin and the possibility of joining the Latin Monetary Union, to compete directly with those European coins, were rejected by Congress. The Congressmen did not sell the coins back to the Mint; instead, they were kept as souvenirs and it is because of those coins that we have the surviving number of specimens that exist today.

The Morgan design with the “coiled hair” was being developed as the fate of the Barber design was being decided. Only 10-12 of the 1879-dated coiled hair specimens are known to exist.

(1879 dated Morgan’s Design of the Coiled Hair Stella – Obverse [left] – Reverse [right].)

In 1880, approximately 17-20 Specimens of the 1880 dated flowing hair specimen were struck while 8-10 examples of the 1880-dated coil hair Stella were struck. Accordingly, the most affordable example of the Stella is the 1879-dated Flowing Hair variety. But even those examples are prohibitively rare and expensive. The coiled hair variety of both years and the 1880 coiled hair are seemingly impossible to find.

DateTypeMintageProof-60 ValueProof-66 Value
1879Flowing Hair425$125,000$300,000
1879Coiled Hair10-12$350,000$1,250,000
1880Flowing Hair17-20$200,000$800,000
1880Coiled Hair8-10$700,000$2,500,000

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