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Proof rouble rarity


marv
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As everyone (should) knows, proof silver Russian roubles are hot, especially in high grade. I consistently see the auction catalogs refer to the rarity of proofs in some manner, i.e., "rare, very rare," etc. But I always assumed they were referring to the rarity of mint state examples of those dates as I thought that nobody had been able to get accurate mintages for the Alex III and Nicholas II proofs. I always thought it was a stretch to carry mint state rarities over to the proof versions.

 

So I'm wondering whether any of the newer references, e.g., Bitkin, attempt to categorize the rarity of Russian proof roubles. I don't have a copy of Bitkin.

Marv Finnley

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As everyone (should) knows, proof silver Russian roubles are hot, especially in high grade. I consistently see the auction catalogs refer to the rarity of proofs in some manner, i.e., "rare, very rare," etc. But I always assumed they were referring to the rarity of mint state examples of those dates as I thought that nobody had been able to get accurate mintages for the Alex III and Nicholas II proofs. I always thought it was a stretch to carry mint state rarities over to the proof versions.

 

So I'm wondering whether any of the newer references, e.g., Bitkin, attempt to categorize the rarity of Russian proof roubles. I don't have a copy of Bitkin.

Marv Finnley

Bitkin doesn't, and Kazakov (Nicholas II) also doesn't. I think you are correct in stating that there are no published mintage figures for proof roubles. And I agree that it is like comparing apples and oranges to assume that just because the business strike of a certain year might be rare, that this would extend to proofs as well.

 

Of course, proofs will always be rarer than their business strike counterparts. Some issues were proof only; of these, sometimes mintage numbers are known and are tiny -- 50 kopeks of 1898 or 1903, for example. We know that there were only 10 of the former and 19 of the latter struck total (assuming that there were no later-date Communist era unrecorded strikes ... source: RW Julian, "Russian Silver Coinage 1796-1917").

 

However, considering that proofs are in a class by themselves, a proof rouble of one date might very well be more common than the proof rouble of a different date, whereas the relative rarity of the business strike might be just the other way around. For example, both 1912 and 1913 roubles (not the Tercentenary commemorative, though) were struck in proof, IIRC, but the 1913 proofs may not necessarily be any rarer than the 1912 proofs.

 

The Kazakov reference does list prices for proof issues of the Nicholas II era which could be used as a guide to relative rarity ... assuming that these are accurate reflections of the availability of those proofs.

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Of course, proofs will always be rarer than their business strike counterparts. Some issues were proof only; of these, sometimes mintage numbers are known and are tiny -- 50 kopeks of 1898 or 1903, for example. We know that there were only 10 of the former and 19 of the latter struck total (assuming that there were no later-date Communist era unrecorded strikes ... source: RW Julian, "Russian Silver Coinage 1796-1917").

There is some minor confusion here. The quoted numbers are of the official strikes made for

museums and high-ranking collectors, such as the Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich and the

Hermitage. In addition to these pieces, specimens were also struck for ordinary collectors

but these numbers are presently unknown.

 

RWJ

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There is some minor confusion here. The quoted numbers are of the official strikes made for

museums and high-ranking collectors, such as the Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich and the

Hermitage. In addition to these pieces, specimens were also struck for ordinary collectors

but these numbers are presently unknown.

 

RWJ

In other words, there are unrecorded "novodels" of these, whereas no business strikes were produced ... Do you think that a situation with these 50 kopek coins similar to that of the Gangut rouble is possible?

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In other words, there are unrecorded "novodels" of these, whereas no business strikes were produced ... Do you think that a situation with these 50 kopek coins similar to that of the Gangut rouble is possible?

It was more or less traditional for world mints not to report proof coins struck

for collectors. The only 19th century exception to this rule that I know of is the

Philadelphia Mint beginning in 1860 for gold and silver, 1878 for minor coins.

 

The St. Petersburg Mint, however, was exceptional in that it published the number

of special pieces made for museums and high-ranking collectors.

 

The pieces made for ordinary collectors cannot really be called novodels as they

were struck in the year of coinage. The problem is that we have no clear idea of

how many sets were made or under what conditions they were sold. I would think,

for example, that a collector could not purchase a single 10 kopecks of 1910 in

proof but rather had to buy the four-piece set (5, 10, 15, and 20 kopecks). There

were perhaps differing combinations. I tend to think that the poltina and rouble had

to be purchased as a set after 1901 but this is speculation.

 

Under Nicholas II if a coin was not struck for circulation, and special strikes were made

for museums, such coins were normally made available to regular collectors for a

small fee. The only exception to this rule seems to be the 1904 5 kopecks in silver.

 

Full proof sets could of course be purchased, from the smallest copper to the largest

gold and the Mint no doubt sold sets of copper, silver, or gold. The donative gold of

1896, 1902, and 1908 was not included in such sets and could only be obtained from

the Emperor or member of the Imperial family.

 

RWJ

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...The pieces made for ordinary collectors cannot really be called novodels as they

were struck in the year of coinage. The problem is that we have no clear idea of

how many sets were made or under what conditions they were sold. I would think,

for example, that a collector could not purchase a single 10 kopecks of 1910 in

proof but rather had to buy the four-piece set (5, 10, 15, and 20 kopecks). There

were perhaps differing combinations. I tend to think that the poltina and rouble had

to be purchased as a set after 1901 but this is speculation.

 

Are there no surviving marketing/sales materials printed by the mint to promote these sales?

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One more question:

Bob, would you think that the St. Petersburg mint struck proofs only for the dated year and destroyed any left overs, or would they have kept them on sale until some initial quantity was exhausted?

How did the Philadelphia mint handle proof mintage? Did they strike them as orders came in, or did they decide up front on some fixed quantity and keep them for sale until they were all gone?

 

Marv Finnley

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Are there no surviving marketing/sales materials printed by the mint to promote these sales?

Alas, most of the Russian mint records were destroyed either during WWI or in the revolution. Most of the information we know about gold and silver coins struck during the latter years of the Tsarist state in Russia actually comes from U.S. mint records (reprints appear sporadically in the "Journal of the Russian Numismatics Society", or JRNS) or second-hand from contemporary sources which had access to the Russian imperial mint records at the time.

 

It might be that some records survived the numerous fires and bombs of the period, but it was impossible to look for them until after the fall of the Communist regime in 1992. And funding priorities have not necessarily favored the research for such things afterwards, too!

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One more question:

Bob, would you think that the St. Petersburg mint struck proofs only for the dated year and destroyed any left overs, or would they have kept them on sale until some initial quantity was exhausted?

How did the Philadelphia mint handle proof mintage? Did they strike them as orders came in, or did they decide up front on some fixed quantity and keep them for sale until they were all gone?

 

Marv Finnley

Well, I am sure that RW Julian would be in a better position to answer these questions, because he has studied just about all the existent records available, and I can only guess at such things ...

 

What makes things difficult is that the "dated year" is not necessarily the year when the coins were actually struck, since the mint operated according to fiscal years by that time. Who knows how many of the more common-date coins such as 1913 were not actually struck in 1914, when war was imminent? I believe that most of the Gangut rouble production of 1914 was melted down due to the necessities of wartime economics. The Gangut rouble, BTW, according to Kazakov, is found in three different types:

 

1 - neither side proof: Original strike (only abt. 150 coins left);

2 - obverse proof, reverse not proof: Novodel;

3 - obverse not proof, reverse proof: "Official" restrike commissioned by the Soviet Philatelic Association in 1927.

 

It seems strange that there were no proofs struck where both obverse and reverse were from proof dies (at least according to Kazakov...).

 

If my surmising means anything to you, I can imagine that Russian proof coins struck in earlier years were struck more or less "on demand", and pretty much by hand. Seems highly unlikely that they would need to destroy or melt down any of these in quantity. The situation with the Gangut roubles was surely a special, perhaps unprecedented case.

 

As to the Philadelphia mint, surely there must be records to document what they did; I myself really haven't a clue.

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One more question:

Bob, would you think that the St. Petersburg mint struck proofs only for the dated year and destroyed any left overs, or would they have kept them on sale until some initial quantity was exhausted?

How did the Philadelphia mint handle proof mintage? Did they strike them as orders came in, or did they decide up front on some fixed quantity and keep them for sale until they were all gone?

Marv Finnley

I would suppose, as a guess, that the St. Petersburg Mint kept such sets on hand until

sold out.

 

In striking proofs the Philadelphia Mint would prepare, say, 200 or 300 sets of silver proof

coins in January or February of each year. When these sold out a fresh batch would be

struck and delivered. Sometime too many were delivered and sets were left over at year’s

end. After about 1863 the Philadelphia Mint either remelted the unsold proof coins or released

them to circulation in early January. In a few cases coin dealers were permitted to purchase

the remaining stock of proofs.

 

The same rules held for gold except that beginning in 1880 collectors were allowed to purchase

individual gold proof coins for an additional 25 cents per coin. Minor coins were normally sold

in sets only.

 

RWJ

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Well, I am sure that RW Julian would be in a better position to answer these questions, because he has studied just about all the existent records available, and I can only guess at such things ...

 

What makes things difficult is that the "dated year" is not necessarily the year when the coins were actually struck, since the mint operated according to fiscal years by that time. Who knows how many of the more common-date coins such as 1913 were not actually struck in 1914, when war was imminent? I believe that most of the Gangut rouble production of 1914 was melted down due to the necessities of wartime economics. The Gangut rouble, BTW, according to Kazakov, is found in three different types:

 

1 - neither side proof: Original strike (only abt. 150 coins left);

2 - obverse proof, reverse not proof: Novodel;

3 - obverse not proof, reverse proof: "Official" restrike commissioned by the Soviet Philatelic Association in 1927.

 

It seems strange that there were no proofs struck where both obverse and reverse were from proof dies (at least according to Kazakov...).

 

If my surmising means anything to you, I can imagine that Russian proof coins struck in earlier years were struck more or less "on demand", and pretty much by hand. Seems highly unlikely that they would need to destroy or melt down any of these in quantity. The situation with the Gangut roubles was surely a special, perhaps unprecedented case.

 

As to the Philadelphia mint, surely there must be records to document what they did; I myself really haven't a clue.

You may well be right about how the St. Petersburg Mint handled proofs. The problem is that we

do not know the size of the proof issues; if large enough the Mint may not have wished to bother

with them after the end of the calendar year. If small they might have been kept on hand for a time

into the new year. I think the latter is the better answer but am far from certain.

 

As far as I know it was the general rule at Russian mints to use the correct dating. It is known, however,

that this did not always happen. Coins of Alexander III dated 1894 were almost certainly struck in 1895,

for example. I doubt that the fiscal year affected the dates on coins one way or another.

 

The Kazakov entry is baffling as one would think that true proof coins were struck for the Gangut issue

in 1914.

 

RWJ

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Perhaps we should approach the subject of proofs not from the standpoint of the mint, but from the standpoint of the buyers. Who would buy proofs in 1910? Who were the major coin collectors in that period? Certainly the average man in the street was not collecting proof coins. In the US, around the time of Joseph Mickley, one could probably name the major numismatists. At the turn of the century, I would guess that in the US, coin collecting was still not something the masses participated in; could the same be said of the situation in Russia? If one could make a guess about the number of collectors during Nicholas II's time, one might get an idea of the number of proofs sold each year.

 

Is there anything in GM's writings that indicates he was a "hoarder" along the lines of Brand, i.e., bought one of everything contemporary as well as more esoteric items? Would GM have bought "modern" proofs? Would Giel, Ilyin, etc.?

 

Several times over the years, RWJ has mentioned that perhaps less than 300 proof roubles were struck each year, and Perhaps he used this same logic to arrive at those figures?

 

Some would consider this type of speculation a waste of time as everyone agrees that we have no hard evidence, but it's still fun to try and apply deductive reasoning to the task. Whereas the subject of US numismatics has been investigated, it seems to me, to the nth degree, and we know a great deal about mintages, die states, and patterns thanks to researchers like Breen, Judd and Julian among others, Russian numismatics on the other hand, although the subject of much pre-revolution research, still seems to lack basic information in many areas. Perhaps we can apply some of what we learn from US proof mintages to the situation in Russia, assuming there were similar numbers of well-to-do collectors during this period.

Marv Finnley

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...

Is there anything in GM's writings that indicates he was a "hoarder" along the lines of Brand, i.e., bought one of everything contemporary as well as more esoteric items? Would GM have bought "modern" proofs? Would Giel, Ilyin, etc.?

...

 

If I remember it correctly, GM did not have to buy anything from the mint. The mint was sending him a full set every year, which probably included business strikes and proof strikes.

Personally, I am not a big fan of proof coins. But they certainly look very, very nice.

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I have see in the Auction catalog from 1960's 25 kopecks wings down with description 25 Proof coins was struck, but no reference were they find information .I have going thru a lot catalogs ,then I trying to complete my series of proof 25 kopecks. My guess no more then 25-50 coins struck for wings down series, some dates less.

Rarenum.

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Perhaps we should approach the subject of proofs not from the standpoint of the mint, but from the standpoint of the buyers. Who would buy proofs in 1910? Marv Finnley

In 1900-1910

1. Proof was buying Numismatic Stores Kopilov, Petrov...

2. I believe Giel was buying a lot of coins for Tolstoy and Tolstoy was complaining about high price for the coins (incl. Proof). Can be the reason why Tolstoy sold his collection :ninja:

3. Proof was buying GM, Tolstoy, Blank... (Not medium class)

Rarenum

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Heritage Auction Galleries' September 2007 Long Beach Signature Auction of World Coins contains an extraordinary offering of Russian coins and medals, led by a spectacular proof example of the 1836 1-1/2 Family Rouble. The rarity features the portrait of Nicholas I on the obverse, while the reverse features eight smaller cameos of the Imperial family: the bust of Empress Alexandra in the center, surrounded by busts of the royal children with no circles. The auction will be held September 26-29 at the Long Beach Convention Center in southern California

 

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Nikimathew

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