There Is a $4 U.S. Coin, and It’s Now Worth $60,000
In 1879, America’s minister plenipotentiary to Austria, John Adam Kasson, successfully persuaded the Philadelphia Mint that the U.S. needed a four-dollar coin. The exact logic of the argument has been lost to time, though its thrust was that America needed a coin that would work as a form of international currency, and a gold coin that (roughly) measured the same weight as a French napoleon or a British sovereign would do the trick.
The project was given the green light, and the coin, which features a giant star on one side, was minted in a limited run of two versions. One version depicted a female personification of Liberty with her hair up, the other with her hair down. But despite Lady Liberty’s multiple coiffures, the coin was a flop. “People never fully got on board,” said Paul Song, the director of coins and banknotes at Bonhams. “It was too much of a reach to say that the average citizen in 1880 was thinking about international trade. They just lost interest.” So Congress refused to approve the coins’ widespread release, the original strike of 425 coins was sold to various politicians at cost, and the mold was scrapped.