The Flowing Hair and Coiled Hair stellas of 1879 and 1880 have been avidly pursued for decades by the collecting public at large, and by specialists since the years after their production. The coins have an undeniable mystique, which, rather than hinder their popularity, has only heightened their appeal over time. Indeed, these four dollar gold patterns have risen through the ranks of the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, according to Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth, reaching #16 in the fifth and most recent edition of that reference (2019).
Breaking that down, we believe that only 425 examples of the 1879 Flowing Hair stella were struck for distribution to congressman and other officials. Smaller quantities, perhaps 12 to 15 pieces, of the 1879 Coiled Hair and the 1880 Flowing and Coiled Hair stellas were struck for unknown purposes. Some have proposed that Chief Engraver Charles Barber and George T. Morgan each produced a design as some form of competition. However, Roger Burdette makes the argument that both portraits were executed by Charles Barber. Either way, these 1879 Flowing Hair four dollar gold pieces are the only collectible examples of the type.
Having handled as many stellas as we have, it is clear to see why this piece is certified as fine as it is. The yellow-gold surfaces display delightful field-device contrast with frosty relief elements set against shimmering fields. Evidence of post-production contact is remarkably scant. The usual parallel striations appear diagonally over Liberty's portrait and the central reverse star.