The $4 Gold Piece

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by WingedLiberty, Oct 3, 2011.

  1. WingedLiberty

    WingedLiberty The Color of Money

    Anybody want to go "halfsies" on this with me?

    I was poking around on Heritage and found this coin for sale for the low low price of $360,000.

    1879_Stella.jpg

    A Bit of History on the Four Dollar Gold Piece

    The Four Dollar Gold Piece is one of the scarcest as well as one of the more unusual coins in the history of the United States.

    Four dollar gold pieces were produced in the U.S for only 2 years (1879 and 1880) and are patterns not regular issue coins.

    These coins were also called Stellas (Latin for Star) a name derived from the five-pointed star on the reverse.

    Stellas were the brainchild John 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 (roughly 20 francs) in many western European countries.

    Stellas were minted soon after the twenty-cent piece had met its demise, the Stella was similarly intended for use in the Latin Monetary Union.

    Indicative of its intended international nature, the obverse legend tucked into the array of 13 stars, displayed the coins metallic content in the metric system as follows:

    * 6 * G * .3 * S * .7 * C * 7 * G * R * A * M * S *

    which could be translated to

    6.0 Gold Grams
    0.3 Silver Grams
    0.7 Copper Grams

    7.0 Total Grams

    Two obverse designs were produced. The Flowing Hair type was designed by Charles E. Barber (Chief Engraver of the U.S Mint at the time, and the later designer of the Barber coins) and the Coiled Hair type designed by by George T. Morgan (of the Morgan Silver Dollar fame).

    On the reverse, instead of IN GOD WE TRUST, the motto appears as DEO EST GLORIA, which translates to GOD IS GLORIOUS. A five-point star is inscribed with "ONE STELLA - 400 CENTS." On the outer rim is "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - 4 DOL." just for an added measure of redunancy.

    Mintages of the various issues are not known with certainty, however it is believed that the original mintages of the two design types of $4 gold Stellas were as follows (all were struck as Specimen or Proof Coins):

    1879 Flowing Hair......15*
    1879 Coiled Hair.......10
    1880 Flowing Hair......15
    1880 Coiled Hair.......10

    After the first 15 were minted in 1879 specimens were made available to congressmen for $6.50 each.

    *These coins became so popular amongst congressmen that an estimated 400 to 600 were restruck the following year from the 1879 Flowing Hair design.
    One problem with the restrikes is the mint could not seem to maintain the original weight of the coin (108 grains). The restruck pieces varied in weight from 103 to 109 grains.

    As an epilogue for the $4 gold Stella, was a bit of a congressional scandal. Documented by several newspapers was the fact that while coin collectors were unable to acquire the $4 gold Stella coins from the Mint at any price, congressmen were able to acquire these for $6.50 each (the cost of production) and having these coins made into jewelry pendants. These pendants were not later seen gracing the necks of their wives, but instead were more commonly displayed as trophies fby some of the more prominent madams of favored bordellos. There are several dozen coins, known, found with markings of the jewelry mountings. This caused an uproar at the time, and since the U.S. never did join the Latin Monetary Union, it was probably the most attention the Stella received.

    Like most pattern coins, these coins never made it into circulation, yet oddly have been incorporated into the regular series of U.S. gold coins (not pattern coins) in most U.S. Coin Guide Books.

    Today, such coins are nearly forgotten by most, exceedingly rare, and accordingly expensive.
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  3. lkeigwin

    lkeigwin Active Member

    Okay, WL. I'll go halfsies on it with you. I've always lusted for a Stella. Which half do you want?
    Lance.
  4. WingedLiberty

    WingedLiberty The Color of Money

    I'll take any half.

    You know if we got 360 coin talk members to chip in $1000 each, we could buy it and each one of us can keep the coin 1 day out of the year. Right!
  5. rev1774

    rev1774 Active Member

    Wowser, that is one beautiful coin...I doubt I could afford the admission to look at that one let alone anything else...
  6. coleguy

    coleguy Coin Collector

    You have a lot of faith in the abilities of the US Post Office! We'd just have to cut it into 360 equal parts.
    Guy
  7. WingedLiberty

    WingedLiberty The Color of Money

    Yes, the good old bankrupt USPS! I don't even think they offer insurance for that much. You are right, we'll have to break it up into chips and distribute it to C.T. members like a thrid-of-a-million-dollar jigsaw puzzle! Once a year, we'll all get together and bring our chips and assemble it so we can ohh and ahh.
  8. WingedLiberty

    WingedLiberty The Color of Money

    The Flowing Hair Stella is beautiful; but I have to admit I have always been partial to the Coiled Hair Stella designed by Morgan. These are even more impossible to find for sale.

    Gold_0400_1879_C_Obv_Big.jpg
    Gold_0400_1879_C_Rev_Big.jpg
  9. HULLCOINS

    HULLCOINS Junior Member

    I'm in at 1k
  10. rev1774

    rev1774 Active Member

    ~~Sounds like a plan... but,

    Everyone knows someone is usually missing that LAST piece of the jigsaw puzzle.. wouldn't that be a butt buster... :eek:
  11. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    Actually you treat it like a company, the coin stays in a bank vault somewhere and each person gets a digital image and a "stock certificate" showing how many shares of the coin he owns. People can buy and sell their shares and annually a vote can be taken on whether or not to sell the coin. One vote per share. (Or it could be set up in the original offering that the coin will be liquidated after a set time period.) When the coin is sold then the sale price is divided by the number of shares and each person gets that amount times the number of shares he owns.

    There are other details that would have to be worked out (who handles the sale, tracks the ownership of the shares, handles the disbursement, and what compensation that person will receive among other things.) but you get the general idea.

    This allows you to own at least part of a rarity such as this. Something that most of us could never aspire to. It also lest you potentially benefit from the increase in the value of such a coin.

    Could you see this happening with other major rarities and a numismatic "stock market" coming into existence where the shares in rare coins are traded?
  12. WingedLiberty

    WingedLiberty The Color of Money

    That's a very cool idea Conder. Technically you could cut it up into smaller pieces 36,000 owners in for $10 each. Who doesnt have $10 floating around to contribute -- and I am sure we could dig up 36,000 interested collectors.
  13. Marshall

    Marshall Junior Member

    This is how many scams start. The broker claims to be selling 36,000 shares at $10 each when in reality he sells 150,000 shares and claims the extra is for "expenses" (mostly his) and everyone gets scammed, though most don't know it.

    But I digress into my cynicism and paranoia of the Great Deceivers which surround us. There really are good people. They're just surrounded by politicians.
  14. Rhino89

    Rhino89 Junior Member

    I like the star design, but wow, that woman on the other side is a very poorly designed "woman"... looks more like a cross-dresser in a wig :( very angry masculine face.
  15. rev1774

    rev1774 Active Member

    I'd even go for the 100.00 each to purchase something like that...

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