US Coins

Legend to offer Quintuple Stella in May auction

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. 

When his original goloid composition proved unpopular, Hubbell suggested “metric-goloid” for a $20 double eagle that would contain 30 grams gold, 1.5 grams silver and 3.5 grams copper. At a ratio of 16-to-1 of silver to gold, the total value of the metal was $20. Hubbell promoted this as a more durable, lighter and attractive alternative to the 90 percent gold, 10 percent copper composition then in use. 

Neither the Stella or the metric-goloid composition took off, but today the impressive $20 patterns are called “Quintuple Stellas” by collectors. 

A different example, graded Proof 62 by PCGS with an unbroken pedigree that traced back to Dr. Hubbell and the Philadelphia Mint, sold for $862,500 at Heritage’s January 2007 Florida United Numismatists auction. 

A gilt bronze example graded Proof 62 gilt by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. sold for $207,000 at Heritage’s 2011 FUN auction. As Heritage noted in the description of the gilt example, “No design of the era more clearly reflects the desire on the part of certain individuals and groups to modify U.S. coinage to an internationally agreeable, convenient format based on metric measures.”

Original Proof 1827/3 quarter

Another important lot in the May auction is an Original 1827/3 Capped Bust quarter dollar graded Proof 64 by PCGS. One of nine original Proof examples known, it has a pedigree that goes back to the mid-19th century including Loren G. Parmelee, Col. E.H.R. Green, and James A. Stack.

To satisfy demand for the rare Proof issue, restrikes were made in the 1860s. These can be distinguished from Original Proof 1827/3 quarter dollars: the denomination on the reverse on Original pieces has a Curl Base 2, while Restrikes have a Flat Base 2 in the denomination (the Restrike paired the 1827 obverse die with an 1819 reverse die). 

The two coins will be on display at the Whitman Baltimore Spring Expo, March 31 to April 3 and the Central States Numismatic Society show in Schaumburg, Ill., April 27 to 30. 

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