Stella (United States coin)

Last updated
United States
Value4 United States dollars
Diameter22 mm
Composition85.7% gold, 4.3% silver, 10% copper
Years of minting1879–1880
Mint marksNone, all were struck at the Philadelphia Mint.
NNC-US-1879-G$4-Stella Pattern (Flowing Hair).jpg
Design Liberty with flowing hair
Designer Charles E. Barber
Design date1879
NNC-US-1880-G$4-Stella Pattern (Coiled Hair).jpg
DesignLiberty with coiled hair
Designer George T. Morgan
Design date1879
NNC-US-1879-G$4-Stella Pattern (Flowing Hair).jpg
DesignerCharles E. Barber
Design date1879

The United States four dollar coin, also officially called a Stella, is a unit of currency equivalent to four United States dollars.


It was originally minted as a universal coin exchangeable with any currency around the world. Two varieties of the Stella were made: Liberty with flowing hair, designed by Charles E. Barber, and with coiled hair, designed by George T. Morgan. [1] The flowing hair variety is the most commonly seen variety. Even though the coin was designed as a pattern coin, [2] similar to the Gobrecht dollar, many catalogs list the coin as a regular-issue item.


The Stella was a pattern coin produced to explore the possibility of joining the Latin Monetary Union (LMU); these patterns were produced in 1879 and 1880 at the urging of John A. Kasson, a former chairman of the United States House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures. [3] The Stella was meant to contain a quantity of precious metal similar to that of the standard LMU gold piece, the twenty-franc Napoleon minted in France, Switzerland, and other LMU countries. However, the composition and weight of the Stella was not a precise match to the LMU standard: the total weight was 7 grams (rather than 6.45 grams), the gold content was 6 grams of fine gold (rather than 5.81 grams), and the coins were only .857 fine (rather than .900).

Two different designs obverse were produced: one with flowing hair; in the other the hair is coiled. Both bear the same inscription: "★6★G★.3★S★.7★C★7★GRAMS★" (the five-pointed glyph variant of the "" is used) to indicate the metallic content of the coin, and the date. The reverse star had the inscriptions ONE STELLA and 400 CENTS, while the reverse rim had the legends UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and FOUR DOL., and circling the star but between its points were the legends E PLURIBUS UNUM ("Out of many, one") and DEO EST GLORIA ("To God is the glory").

The coin and the prospect of joining the Latin Monetary Union were rejected by Congress, [4] but not before several hundred restrikes of the Barber flowing hair design had been produced and sold to Congressmen at the cost of production. These later became a source of scandal when it was noted that a number of them ended up as jewelry pieces adorning the necks of madams operating some of Washington's most infamous bordellos.[ citation needed ]

1879 Quintuple Stella Pattern NNC-US-1879-G$20-Quintuple Stella Pattern.jpg
1879 Quintuple Stella Pattern

Five examples of a pattern quintuple stella denominated at 20 dollars were produced in 1879 as well. These coins used a modified version of the then-current Liberty Head (Coronet) design of the double eagle, replacing the stars on the obverse with "★30★G★1.5★S★3.5★C★35★G★R★A★M★S★", and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on the reverse with the same DEO EST GLORIA found on the reverse of the stella. [5]

Only 425 examples of the Stella were made. All 1880 coins are rare; 25 examples are known. [6]

Related Research Articles

Nickel (United States coin) Current denomination of United States currency

A nickel is a five-cent coin struck by the United States Mint. Composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel, the piece has been issued since 1866. Its diameter is 0.835 inches (21.21 mm) and its thickness is 0.077 inches (1.95 mm). Due to inflation, the purchasing power of the nickel continues to drop, and currently the coin represents less than 1% of the federal hourly minimum wage. In 2018, over 1.26 billion nickels were produced at the Philadelphia and Denver mints.

United States Mint Produces circulating coinage for the United States

The United States Mint is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury responsible for producing coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce, as well as controlling the movement of bullion. It does not produce paper money; that responsibility belongs to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The first United States Mint was created in Philadelphia in 1792, and soon joined by other centers, whose coins were identified by their own mint marks. There are currently four active coin-producing mints: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point.

Dime (United States coin) Current denomination of United States currency

The dime, in United States usage, is a ten-cent coin, one tenth of a United States dollar, labeled formally as "one dime". The denomination was first authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792. The dime is the smallest in diameter and is the thinnest of all U.S. coins currently minted for circulation, being 0.705 inches in diameter and 0.053 in (1.35 mm) in thickness. The obverse of the current dime depicts the profile of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the reverse boasts an olive branch, a torch, and an oak branch, from left to right respectively. As of 2011, the dime coin cost 5.65 cents to produce.

Double eagle Gold $20 coin of the United States

A double eagle is a gold coin of the United States with a denomination of $20. The coins are made from a 90% gold and 10% copper alloy and have a total weight of 1.0750 troy ounces.

Three-cent piece

The United States three cent piece was a unit of currency equaling 3100 of a United States dollar. The mint produced two different three-cent coins for circulation: the three-cent silver and the three-cent nickel. Additionally, a three-cent bronze coin was made as a pattern in 1863. During the period from 1865 to 1873, both coins were minted, albeit in very small quantities for the silver three-cent piece.

Half dime Former United States five-cent silver coin

The half dime, or half disme, was a silver coin, valued at five cents, formerly minted in the United States.

Charles E. Barber

Charles Edward Barber was an American coin engraver who served as the sixth chief engraver of the United States Mint from 1879 until his death in 1917. He had a long and fruitful career in coinage, designing most of the coins produced at the mint during his time as chief engraver. He did full coin designs, and he designed about 30 medals in his lifetime. The Barber coinage were named after him. In addition, Barber designed a number of commemorative coins, some in partnership with assistant engraver George T. Morgan. For the popular Columbian half dollar, and the Panama-Pacific half dollar and quarter eagle, Barber designed the obverse and Morgan the reverse. Barber also designed the 1883 coins for the Kingdom of Hawaii, and also Cuban coinage of 1915. Barber's design on the Cuba 5 centavo coin remained in use until 1961.

Pattern coin Sample coin to demonstrate the design of a coin

A pattern coin is a coin which has not been approved for release, but produced to evaluate a proposed coin design. They are often off-metal strike, to proof standard or piedforts. Many coin collectors collect and study pattern coins because of their historical importance. Many of the world's most valuable coins are pattern coins; nearly 25 of the pieces listed in 100 Greatest US Coins are pattern coins.

Seated Liberty dollar United States silver dollar coin minted from 1840–1873

The Seated Liberty dollar was a dollar coin struck by the United States Mint from 1840 to 1873 and designed by its chief engraver, Christian Gobrecht. It was the last silver coin of that denomination to be struck before passage of the Coinage Act of 1873, which temporarily ended production of the silver dollar for American commerce. The coin's obverse is based on that of the Gobrecht dollar, which had been minted experimentally from 1836 to 1839. However, the soaring eagle used on the reverse of the Gobrecht dollar was not used; instead, the United States Mint (Mint) used a heraldic eagle, based on a design by late Mint Chief Engraver John Reich first utilized on coins in 1807.

Gobrecht dollar US silver dollar coin (1836–1839)

The Gobrecht dollar, minted from 1836 to 1839, was the first silver dollar struck for circulation by the United States Mint since production of that denomination was officially halted in 1806. The coin was struck in small numbers to determine whether the reintroduced silver dollar would be well received by the public.

Flowing Hair dollar Coin minted by the United States from 1794 to 1795

The Flowing Hair dollar was the first dollar coin issued by the United States federal government. The coin was minted in 1794 and 1795; its size and weight were based on the Spanish dollar, which was popular in trade throughout the Americas.

Large cent One-cent coin in the United States from 1793 to 1957

The United States large cent was a coin with a face value of 1/100 of a United States dollar. Its nominal diameter was 118 inch (28.57 mm). The first official mintage of the large cent was in 1793, and its production continued until 1857, when it was officially replaced by the modern-size one-cent coin.

Shield nickel First US five cent piece to be made out of copper-nickel

The Shield nickel was the first United States five-cent piece to be made out of copper-nickel, the same alloy of which American nickels are struck today. Designed by James B. Longacre, the coin was issued from 1866 until 1883, when it was replaced by the Liberty Head nickel. The coin takes its name from the motif on its obverse, and was the first five-cent coin referred to as a "nickel"—silver pieces of that denomination had been known as half dimes.

Silver center cent

The Silver center cent is an American pattern coin produced by the United States Mint in 1792. As a precursor to the large cent it was one of the first coins of the United States and an early example of a bimetallic coin. Only 12 original examples are known to exist, of which one is located in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Two more specimens exist however contain fabricated plugs added after minting.

Half eagle

The half eagle is a United States coin that was produced for circulation from 1795 to 1929 and in commemorative and bullion coins since the 1980s. Composed almost entirely of gold, it has a face value of five dollars. Its production was authorized by The Act of April 2, 1792, and it was the first gold coin minted by the United States.

Capped Bust Former design used on United States coinage

The Capped Bust coinage of the United States consisted of a half dime, dime, quarter and half dollar.

Flowing Hair coinage was issued in the United States between 1793 and 1795. The design was used for the first half dime, half dollar, dollar, and the first two large cents.

1804 dollar Coin worth one US$

The 1804 dollar or Bowed Liberty Dollar was a dollar coin struck by the Mint of the United States, of which fifteen specimens are currently known to exist. Though dated 1804, none were struck in that year; all were minted in the 1830s or later. They were first created for use in special proof coin sets used as diplomatic gifts during Edmund Roberts' trips to Siam and Muscat.

Susan B. Anthony dollar United States dollar coin depicting Susan B. Anthony

The Susan B. Anthony dollar is a United States dollar coin minted from 1979 to 1981 when production was suspended due to poor public acceptance, and then again in 1999. Intended as a replacement for the larger Eisenhower dollar, the new smaller one-dollar coin went through testing of several shapes and compositions, but all were opposed by the vending machine industry, a powerful lobby affecting coin legislation. Finally, a round planchet with an eleven-sided inner border was chosen for the smaller dollar.

Liberty Cap half cent First half cents produced by the United States Mint

The Liberty Cap half cent was the first half cent coin produced by the United States Mint. It was issued from 1793 until 1797.


  1. Yeoman, R. S.; Bressett, Kenneth; Garrett, Jeff; Bowers, Q. David (2019). A Guide Book of United States Coins (72nd ed.). Pelham, AL: Whitman Publishing. p. 274.
  2. "The Four-Dollar Stella". Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  3. "Coin of the Week: Discovered Flowing Hair Stella". COINage Magazine. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  4. "Rare gold coin from 1880 sells for $2.75M at auction". Fox News Network, LLC. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  5. "Classic US Coins – Gold Stella $4 Coin Goes to Auction". CoinWeek, LLC. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  6. Yeoman, R. S.; Bressett, Kenneth; Garrett, Jeff; Bowers, Q. David (2019). A Guide Book of United States Coins (72nd ed.). Pelham, AL: Whitman Publishing. p. 274.