The Simpson Collection is the greatest assemblage of United States patter coins since J. Hewitt Judd’s own collection was dispersed some 50 years ago. Among its amazing highlights is a complete set of the highly coveted stellas, or four-dollar pieces, complete in all types, dates and metals.
The stellas four-dollar pattern coins are remnants of a move to recognize the Latin Monetary Union, an alliance of member nations which agreed to create an international coinage. While the US never formally joined, several efforts were made to conform US coinage to standards used more broadly.
In 1879, members of Congress proposed a four-dollar coin to compete globally with similarly valued pieces, including the French 20 franc coin, the Spanish 20 pesetas, the Dutch and Austrian 8 florins and the Italian 20 lire. To correspond with the proposed legislation, the US Mint struck pattern four dollar coins in 1879 and 1880. The four-dollar coin received an entirely new designation: “stella” (Latin for star). This was analogous to the term “eagle,” used for the ten-dollar denomination, both the star and the eagle being national emblems on our coins. The pattern coins had a unique design, and were made with two obverses, one with Flowing Hair engraved by Charles Barber and another with Coiled Hair by George Morgan.
The authorizing legislation for the stella ultimately failed in Congress. Today, only numismatists remember the dream of a universal coinage system that created these fascinating coins.