FAMOUS $4 STELLA COIN. U.S. ONLY STRUCK COINS IN $4 DENOMINATION IN 1879 AND 1880 IN AN EFFORT TO MAKE COMMERCE IN EUROPE EASIER. ONLY 425 STRUCK AND GIVEN TO MEMBERS OF CONGRESS. CAC.
Significance: The coin is extremely popular among collectors and is number 18 in the “100
Greatest U.S. Coins” book.
Dana Bickford, a New York businessman and inventor of the automatic knitting machine, was
traveling through Europe in 1874. During his travels he experienced difficulties with
international exchange when doing transactions. In fact, many Americans had experienced the
same challenges as Dana Bickford while traveling through Europe, as the United States did not
have a coin equivalent to the intrinsic value of the European countries. These coins included the
Spanish 20-peseta, the Dutch 8-florin, the Italian 20-lire, and the French 20-franc, among other
denominations. In an effort to correct this problem, John Kasson who served as the United States
Minister to Austria and was formerly the chairman of the Committee of Coinage, Weights, and
Measures proposed to Treasury Secretary John Sherman a $4 coin that would be an easier vessel
of trade throughout European countries. Charles Barber was commissioned to make a few of
these trial pieces. The Mint produced 425 1879 Flowing Hair Stellas which were believed to be
given to Congress and other personal and political friends in an effort to gain support for the
production of this new coinage. Ultimately, Congress rejected the idea of international coinage.
As a result, the $4 Stella was only made in 1879 and a few examples in 1880. It is one of the
most popular coins because of its $4 denomination, which is not seen on other coins throughout
U.S. history. This example is among the finest known to survive.