The $4 Stella, while technically considered a pattern issue, displays a unique design, tiny mintage, and interesting history, and has been included in regular issue gold type sets for generations. Over the years, the story has been told in countless auction catalogs of the origin of this odd denomination, its different composition, and its high demand from collectors. The PCGS Coinfacts website quotes our own Q. David Bowers in their paragraphs about the coin: “Four-dollar gold pieces, or stellas, so-called from the five-pointed star on the reverse, are patterns, not regular coins. Stellas were produced in 1879 and 1880 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 travelers, 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.
“Two obverse designs were produced, the Flowing Hair type by Charles E. Barber (who was chief engraver of the Mint at the time) and the Coiled Hair type by George T. Morgan (he of 1878 silver dollar fame). On the reverse, instead of IN GOD WE TRUST, the motto appears as DEO EST GLORIA, or ‘God is Glorious.’ Mintages of the various issues are not known with certainty, but the Guide Book estimates 425 for the 1879 Flowing Hair, the issue most often encountered, just 10 for the 1879 Coiled Hair, 15 for the 1880 Flowing Hair, and 10 for the 1880 Coiled Hair. Actual mintages were probably slightly higher than those figures.”
The lovely example offered in our iAuction #3504 is graded Proof-63 by PCGS and shows nice cameo contrast, although not enough for the designation, There are some light lines on Liberty’s cheek, and there is some haze in the fields, but this is as nice for the assigned grade as one could hope to find. Bidding for this example concludes on the evening of Sunday, November 2, so be sure to visit StacksBowers.com to check out this and the other collectible U.S. coins being offered. We wish you the best of luck in your bidding.