Obv: with Charles E. Barber's famed bust of Liberty facing left with long flowing hair behind, surrounded by the legends and abbreviated inscriptions related to the metallic content with stars separating each number and letter, and date below. Rev: has a large five pointed star at the center which states atop its surface ONE / STELLA / 400 / CENTS. The periphery has UNITED STATES OF AMERICA above, just below in tiny letters is E PLURIBUS UNUM, in similar tiny letters below the star is DEO EST GLORIA and below that is FOUR DOL. at the base of the reverse.
The fields are highly reflective and show just a few minute handling marks when closely examined and are fully mirrored which contrasts with the frost on the devices. The usual roller lines are present on Liberty's cheek, seen on all examples, but quite faint here. No copper spots or handling issues present themselves and a prize for the numismatist who has always sought out an attractive $4 gold Stella. For identification there are two small lintmarks in the left obverse field, one right below the forward point of Liberty's bust, another before her mouth. These lintmarks are caused by fragments of threads adhering to the dies when carefully wiped by the coiner--the thread fragments then become struck into the surface of the coin. The original mintage of 15 pieces was supplemented due to their extreme popularity in 1880, with perhaps another 700 pieces struck. Today these remain just as popular and are one of the hallmarks to a great American coin collection. When found with this degree of contrast, and so well preserved, the number of collectors interested will certainly be high. As nice as most numismatists can hope to obtain, and a delight to examine for its charming quality.
Four-dollar gold pieces, or Stellas, so-called from the five-pointed star on the reverse, are patterns, not regular issue coins. Stellas were produced in 1879 at the suggestion of Hon. John A. Kasson, U. S. Minister to Austria, who felt that a coin of this value would have been used by foreign traveler, as it could be readily exchanged for gold coins of approximate equivalent value in France, Germany, and other European countries. Indicative of its intended international nature, the obverse legend of the $4 piece expressed its metallic content in the metric system as follows: 6G, .3S, .7C, 7 GRAMS.
As chance would have it, the 1879 Stella was born in an era in which Mint officials had a lively business in the making of restrikes, limited-edition patterns, and other numismatic delicacies. Thus, while 1879 $4 coins of the Flowing Hair design, by Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber, were made for their intended purpose-to illustrate the concept of a new denomination--other varieties were struck to create rarities. The Coiled Hair type by Assistant Engraver George T. Morgan, in fact, was never made available openly to numismatists, congressmen, or anyone else. Instead, they were filtered out of the Mint over a period of time, by privileged officials.
On the reverse of both the Flowing Hair and Coiled Hair designs the motto DEO EST GLORIA, or "God is Glorious," was used. This was a departure from the standard IN GOD WE TRUST motto seen on $5, $10 and $20 gold coins of the era.
The 1879 Flowing Hair $4 was the intended pattern. Several hundred examples were distributed to congressmen and others of importance to illustrate the concept of the new denomination. Conventional wisdom has it that 415 to 425 examples were struck, to which can be added a few hundred more that were apparently not officially recorded.
The Flowing Hair $4 by Charles E. Barber was a close copy of a $5 pattern made by his father, the late Chief Engraver William Barber, in 1878. The Coiled Hair motif by assistant engraver Morgan seems to have been made only as a numismatic delicacy. Probably, there was no consideration of its being used for distribution congressmen in 1879, as the design by the Chief Engraver Barber would have taken precedence over any motif by his assistant.
PCGS Population: 23; 27 finer (Proof-67 Cameo finest) within the Cameo Proof designation.