Two important rare coins will be offered in Legend Rare Coin Auctions’ Regency XVII Auction in New Orleans May 19 as part of the Professional Coin Grading Service Members Only show.
A “Quintuple Stella” pattern 1879 Liberty Head gold $20 piece, graded Proof 64 Deep Cameo by PCGS, carries a presale estimate of $1 million to $2 million. It was previously owned by Virgil Brand and Ed Trompeter, who both had multiple examples of this rare pattern in their collections.
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Just five are known struck in gold, including one that is housed in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. The example to be offered in New Orleans comes from the Bob R. Simpson Collection and it is considered the second finest known, behind one graded PCGS Proof 64+ Deep Cameo that is also owned by Simpson and remains in his collection.
Legend describes the coin as having bold and reflective mirrors, “with stunning black and white contrast and very pleasing orange peel surfaces. A very few light hairlines account for the assigned grade, but can be overlooked.”
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Listed as Judd 1643 and Pollock 1843 in pattern reference books, the obverse has the Coronet Liberty Head similar to that used on contemporary gold $20 double eagles but with different obverse lettering circling the bust relating to the composition. The reverse has a familiar eagle with the addition of the motto DEO EST GLORIA (Latin for “To God is the glory”) that replaces IN GOD WE TRUST above the eagle.
A failed proposal
The issue is part of a series of unusual issues struck in the 1870s through early 1880s at the Philadelphia Mint. These include the popular $4 Stella pattern series of 1879 and 1880 that was the brainchild of John Kasson, a former chairman of the House coinage committee and U.S. minister to Austria. Kasson proposed new $4 U.S. coins to compete with international trade coins such as the French 20-franc piece or the Austrian 8-florin coin. Those resulting Stellas were struck in two types in 1879 and 1880 with Coiled Hair and Flowing Hair designs that were not used on regular issue coins.
The Quintuple Stella also relates to inventor Wheeler H. Hubbell’s goloid composition — an alloy primarily of silver with a small amount of gold, though the addition of gold did not make a visual difference.