4 Dollar Coin Pattern, United States, 1879

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Apparently Lady Liberty’s name is Stella, and she likes to wear her hair two different ways. At least, that is according to two prominent coin engravers of the U.S. Mint during the late 19th century Philadelphia, Charles E. Barber and George T. Morgan.
This four dollar gold coin was minted in 1879 as part of a commission from the U.S. Mint to create a coin with a value comparable to European markets. The coin got its name “Stella,” the Latin word for “Star,” due to the star design on its reverse. Charles E. Barber, chief engraver of the U.S. Mint at the time, designed one version of the Stella coin depicting Lady Liberty with flowing hair on the obverse and a single star on the reverse, which is referred to today as “The Flowing Hair Type.” George T. Morgan, another U.S. Mint employee under Barber designed his own version of Stella, which is the one displayed here. Lady Liberty’s hair is worn coiled, a more reserved depiction of the American symbol of Liberty. Morgan’s version is referred to as “The Coiled Hair Type.”
However, the idea of an American international currency was never implemented. Congress rejected the concept, and therefore the coins were only minted for two years. The Stella remains the only four dollar U.S. coin ever minted. Newspapers of the era printed rumors that some Congressmen fashioned the Stellas into necklaces to give to their mistresses and Madams. Some surviving coins do show evidence of having been made into jewelry. Regardless of what happened to the Stellas after minting ceased, many numismatists consider the gold Stellas one of the most famous and popular American denominations. They are also quite rare, as there were only roughly 425 Flowing Hair Type Stellas and 20 Coiled Hair Types ever minted.
United States Mint, Philadelphia. Obverse: Liberty head with coiled hair, facing left; fineness around, date below. Reverse: Large star, denomination below. This pattern rates a Rarity-6 by experts, suggesting that two dozen or so may exist. [reference no. Judd 1638]
date made
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Morgan, George T.
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
United States: Pennsylvania
United States
political area
United States
Physical Description
gold (overall material)
overall: 1.5 mm x 21.5 mm; 1/16 in x 27/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Estate of Josiah K. Lilly
See more items in
Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection
Coins, Currency and Medals
The Value of Money
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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