I've recently come to purchase a full set of the so called 1961 USSR Die Trials. It's 9 tokens matching in sizes and composition the Soviet coins that came into circulation in 1961. However they are uniface and only bear the inscription Образец Госбанка СССР. I don't actually collect much in terms of the Soviet era coins, but these seemed interesting and I could get a full set in NGC BU slabs, so I went for it. As usual for me, I first buy and then start looking around to figure out what it is that I bought.
To start with, these are listed in Petrov/Fedorin's catalog # 757, 758, 759, 760, 761, 762, 763, 764, 765. I don't actually have that book but that's what a lot of auctions reference.
MiM has the following comment - A very interesting and rare full set of service tokens, struck on the specially prepared planchets of all denominations. Most likely these specimens had a demonstrative/technical purpose. Possibly their creation is tied to the activities connected with the 1961 monetary reform. (Очень интересная и редкая, полная подборка служебных жетонов, отчеканенных на специально подготовленных кружках монетных заготовок разных номиналов. Скорее всего, данные образцы имели экспозиционно-технологическое назначение. Вероятно, их появление можно связать с подготовкой проведения мероприятий, связанных с монетной реформой 1961 года.)
Digging around a little more I came across the following information from Fedorin himself posted on Coins.su in 2013 (Образцы Госбанка Ссср . Полный Комплект). Where he makes the following statement - "On the eve of the 1961 reform, the state officials ordered vending machines abroad that were meant to accept the new 1961 type coins. These machines were accompanied by samples of coins that imitated our circulation coins (reforms of 1961). The samples were also made (minted) abroad (I think the emission is small - a maximum of several hundred pieces). Later, something did not work out as usual, and the automated vending machines were not accepted. The machines were not purchased and the specimens for these machines were left behind. They laid around (in the same place abroad) in the finished goods warehouse for 45 years, and then were thrown into the numismatic market. First they were sold in the west, and then they came to us. That's the whole hypothetical story of the origin of these artifacts.
In Russia (in the 80s and 90s), these things were extremely rare. Now the price for these samples is purely demand driven. For my own collection, I bought such a set at the market price. I have no regrets, interesting items."
Interestingly enough I have seen a few references to these being struck in Birmingham (seems strange that a foreign mint would only put down writing in Russian and referencing USSR's Госбанк/Statebank directly, unless that was required by the contract?) - "These were struck in England (Birmingham), by a private company, as bank die trials for the Soviet government. " https://www.vcoins.com/en/stores/world_money_shop/189/product/russiaussr_1961_nd_9_piece_die_trial_set_ngc_brilliant_uncirculated_birmingham_mint/387633/Default.aspx
I wonder if it is not more likely that the Soviet Mint was shopping around for new equipment to be used in the huge emissions of the 1961 and onward, and these were indeed equipment trials but then they were left behind for some reason?
What's also interesting is that these do show up raw, but most seem to be in the NGC slabs with the same 4 (as I have seen so far) submission numbers (3203939, 3203912, 3203913, 3203914). I poked around on the NGC's certificate validation and came up with the following numbers:
NGC ID Range
So as far as I can tell someone in 4 submissions sent 1373 of these specimens to NGC. I'm not certain, but in fact I'm pretty sure that the numbers for each type of specimen are not the same, but NGC doesn't let me make too many consecutive searches so it's hard to tell the exact numbers. At any rate this means that at most there can be 152 full sets of these in slabs.
These slabs look older than the currently used ones. I found the following post and based on the information provided these slabs were in use from 2004 to 2008, which is sort of the peak time frame for the popularity of Russian numismatics, so makes sense they would come out of the woodwork - https://www.ngccoin.com/boards/topic/117773-ngc-slab-varieties/?tab=comments#comment-2223449
If anyone comes around more information about these die trials please add it to this thread. Thanks in advance!