America’s effort to create a gold coin comparable to the gold coins used in Europe was spearheaded by John A. Kasson, a career politician, diplomat and one-time chairman of the United States House Committee on Coinage, Weights and Measures. The proposed coin bore a five-pointed star on its reverse, carried a denomination of $4.00 and was christened STELLA (“Stella” is Latin for “Star”).
The Stella was minted in two types: Charles E. Barber’s Flowing Hair type and George T. Morgan’s Coiled Hair type. Today, these coins are extremely rare and among America’s premier numismatic masterpieces. No one knows with exact certainty how many of these coins were struck, but it’s estimated that 440 “Flowing Hair” Stellas were struck between 1879 and 1880. Just 20 “Coiled hair” specimens were struck between 1879 and 1880.
In addition, a larger, heftier $20 Quintuple Gold Stella was also proposed. This coin bore a design similar to the Type III $20 Gold Liberty, with the main difference being the specs around Liberty’s head on the obverse. The reverse features the same eagle design, but the motto “In God We Trust” has been replaced with “DEO ESST GLORIA,” meaning “God is Glory.”
Despite Kasson’s insistence, Congress rejected the idea of an international coin, dooming the Stella to remain a short-lived pattern that would never be struck or issued for circulation. But while it was never used in circulation,the Stella’s story was far from over…