Although correctly classified as patterns, the Four-Dollar Gold Piece, or “Stella,” is often thought of as part of the regular U.S. Gold series. Originally suggested by the Honorable John A. Lasser, then Minister to Austria, these “Stellas” would have been nearly the equivalent of many circulating European gold coins, including the German 20-Mark, the British Sovereign, and the French and Swiss 20-Franc pieces. However, this idea of metric equivalence never took hold in the United States and still has not to this day.
“Stellas” were produced in two types. The first, designed by Charles Barber, used a “Flowing Haired” Liberty on the obverse. The second, designed by George Morgan, depicted Liberty with coiled hair. Only a few of the original sets of Stellas were actually struck in 1879, rather the majority was created in 1880. As a result, an “original” example of the 1879 Flowing Hair Stella (without the central striations appearing on either the obverse or reverse) is extremely rare today, and it is believed that fewer than 12 exist. The “restrike” Flowing Hair Stella, the one most commonly encountered today, was minted in January of 1880 (25), April (100) and May (300). Remarkably, less than 40 examples exist for the other three issues, the 1879 and 1880 Coiled Hair and the 1880 Flowing. These coins are also extremely rare and will command prices in the mid to high six figures when offered for sale. Recently a few individuals have assembled such four-piece sets, oftentimes paying over one million dollars for the privilege!