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NGC Certifies Unique Stella $4 Gold Variety

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) has authenticated and graded the single known example of a distinctive $4 Stella variety as PF- 60, J-1636a.

The Stella, or four-dollar gold piece, was coined solely as a series of pattern pieces dated 1879 or 1880 in two major types. Both show a left-facing bust of Liberty on the obverse and a five pointed star on the reverse, from which the coins get their popular name “Stella.”

More often seen is the Flowing Hair type designed by Mint Engraver Charles Barber, with most examples bearing the 1879 date. This newly-certified specimen features that same basic design, but what makes it unique is that the bust of Liberty is positioned differently with respect to the supporting design elements, clearly identifying it as having been struck with a different obverse die than all other known examples. The reverse die is the same as that observed for other Stellas coined in gold, copper, aluminum and white metal. The coin was struck in copper and gilt—gold plated. Whether this gilding was done at the US Mint or sometime later is not certain.

This newly-certified coin has been known to advanced numismatists for decades, yet it has been off the market for many years and is largely unfamiliar to most hobbyists.

On the normal die, Liberty’s coronet points to the star between numeral 7 and letter C of the peripheral legend, and the tip of her bust leads to the first star at lower left. On this unique specimen, Liberty’s portrait is rotated a degree or two counter-clockwise, so that these same two features point to the 7 in the legend and the 1 in the date, respectively. It’s not known for certain in which order the dies were employed, but it’s likely that this variety came first, since so many additional pieces were made with the other die.

This coin is listed and illustrated in both the Judd and Pollock reference books on United States pattern coins. Judd (United States Pattern Coins, 10th Edition) numbers it J-1636a and describes this as the Small Head variety, though any difference in size is imperceptible. The coin is described as copper with a reeded edge, but no mention is made of the sole known example being gilt, that is, gold plated.

In fact, the illustration is copper colored, suggesting that the graphic designer may have altered its color to match the printed description. Pollock (United States Patterns and Related Issues) numbers this variety as P-1837 and acknowledges that it is gilt. Both references cite its most recent public appearance as being the Kagin’s auction of March, 1985, Lot 1591.

Unlike most gold impressions of the Flowing Hair Stella, this specimen displays an absolutely full strike. It is readily distinguishable by a shallow reeding mark at the junction of Liberty’s neck and jaw. Also of note is that the star between letters AM of GRAMS is distinctly repunched.

The unique J-1636a is from the estate of John Eshbach, longtime hobby stalwart, who passed away several months ago. It will be included in an upcoming Heritage auction which features the John Eshbach Collection.

Numismatic Guaranty Company
Numismatic Guaranty Companyhttps://www.ngccoin.com/
NGC was founded in 1987 and has become one of the largest third-party grading services. Their parent company is the Certified Collectibles Group (CCG).

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  1. with regard to this piece, it was gilt outside the Mint as there was no mention of gilding when it sold in SH & H Chapman’s HP Smith sale in 1906.

  2. I was wondering what the weight of this coin was as I have very unexpected had one of these fall into myhands but even through everything matches to a tee of the orginal, which there is no way I could have, I was told that I had about a 70% better chance of winning the powerball as to having one of these fall from the sky and hit me in the head. Anyway the weight is off from the y grams could you tell me alittle more about the one listed above and do you know how many of these have been graded? thank you

  3. if anyone is out there that knows anything about this coin has there been any graded inthe coiled hair and what would the weight of the copper/gilt be


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