The Coiled Hair Stella is one of the most coveted and classic issues in American numismatics. Minted during only two years, in 1879 and 1880, there are just a handful known of each date and any appearance is an opportunity for the specialist. The obverse design is by George T. Morgan with a bust of Liberty facing left, her hair coiled in a complex braid wrapped in a coil at the top of her head. She wears a tiara inscribed LIBERTY in tiny letters. Around the obverse the legend reads * 6 * G * .3 * S * .7 * C * 7 * G * R * A * M* S* an abbreviation for 6 grams gold, .3 grams silver and .7 grams copper for a total of 7 grams. The date 1879 is below the bust. The reverse is the same seen paired with the Flowing Hair obverse, engraved and designed by Charles E. Barber. The central feature is a raised five pointed star, with a beaded inset border. Inscribed on the star is ONE / STELLA / 400 / CENTS. Around the star, in small letters, DEO EST GLORIA / E PLURIBUS UNUM. The outer legend reads UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, with FOUR DOL. below.
The current specimen offers fully brilliant surfaces with no copper specks seen tucked into the lettering, rims or devices. For future pedigree tracing there is a minute obverse lint mark just touching the back of Liberty's neck, just below her hair line. The strike is reasonably sharp on all devices, although a hint of softness is noted in Liberty's curls above her ear, a diagnostic feature of this extremely rare issue.
The idea for a new trade coin in gold was developed by Representative John Adam Kasson who felt America should have its own international coinage in gold. Kasson was also involved with the legislation to help the silver miners offload their silver bullion for coinage with the help of Representatives Richard P. "Silver Dick" Bland and William Darrah Kelley--legislation which gave birth to the Trade dollar, the Goloid Patterns and the Metric coins. However, among the issues so inspired, the Stella stands high among them as the most highly prized today. The Stellas were struck during just two years and are technically patterns, though the first year (1879) Flowing Hair design was widely distributed. Why so few Coiled Hair examples were struck is not known, but today these are some of the most popular of the Pattern issues in any metal, and particularly so in gold. Few collectors have ever seen one, let alone had the chance to own such a numismatic treasure. It has been years since a Coiled Hair Stella appeared for sale, and this one is as beautiful as it is rare, with nice cameo contrast nicely complementing the superb aesthetic quality. In short, it would be virtually impossible to replace the quality and rarity seen here, and it may be years before another Coiled Hair Stella is offered.
PCGS Populaton: 1; 3 finer (Proof-66+ finest) within the Cameo designation.