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Russian Gold: Alexander III 10 Roubles


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Hello everybody


The other day I posted a question expressing my doubts about the 1894 gold 10-rouble coin. What was bugging me was that despite the official mintage figure of 1007, as quoted in Severin, the coin appears to be considerably less scarce than the other Alexander dates (1886-93). I asked for expert opinions but my enquiry drew a blank. Perhaps, I posted it on the wrong forum. Or perhaps, the question was deemed daft and simply didn't warrant an answer. Or could it be that there is a general lack of substance in Russian numismatics and nobody really gives a damn?


You see, If you collect English gold sovereigns, you can refer to the works of the late Michael Marsh, a real enthusiast of the coin, who did a lot of painstaking research and whose works as a result are still considered the main source or reference. What is so admirable about these sources is that there is a lot of historical background and that one can see a correlation between his rating of individual dates and denominations in terms of their scarcity or rarity and the market prices they still command today.


I appreciate that the history of Russia is very different from that of Britain and that, especially in the 20th century, Russia experienced upheavals and calamities on an almost unprecedented scale and that Severin did a very good job when he simply quoted the official mintage figures providing a modicum of comment and background. After all, his book was put together in the late 50s and how could he find out how many coins had survived all the upheavals and how many had been melted? And yet, one would expect that 50 years on, with more information coming to light, e.g. the Norwegian hoard in Canadian banks, there may have been serious attempts made to do more research in this area of Russian numismatics. Has anybody got any knowledge of any such sources? I've tried asking Russian dealers one comes across at the fairs these days but they seem to be none the wiser and simply couldn't be bothered. Nor was I able to find anything of substance on staraya-moneta.


Coming back to the 1894 10-rouble gold coin, I could only speculate why its market value according to Konross 2010 is the lowest of all the dates (1886-94), despite the fact that with the 1893 date it has the lowest mintage figure. It's either that there are a lot of forgeries around, old or more recent ones, or that the Soviet government used the dies to strike more coins after 1917. Does anybody know if there is any evidence to support the latter assumption? By the way, there is a big discrepancy between the Konross figure and the figure in the Standard Catalogue of Modern World Gold Coins for 2010, which takes exactly the opposite view and quotes the highest value for the 1894 date in all grades!!!


In the end, I'd like to say that the Russian numismatics is a fascinating area of numismatics and I do hope that it's not just a preserve of brash dealers descending in their dozens on the European coin fairs with the single purpose of finding bargains which could be re-sold back home at a profit but that there people who stop to think about curious abnormalities similar to the one I tried to bring up here.


I would appreciate any feedback.

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It's pretty much a given in Russian Numismatics that mintage figures are considered unreliable as guides to rarity; the 1894 ten rubles is far from the only such circumstance. (The US mint operated similarly back in the days when they'd use a die until it broke; this is why the mint made dollars in 1804 but made no dollars _dated_ 1804 until someone convinced them to run a few off in the 1830s to fill the apparent "hole" in his collection. Or to put it in Russian numismatic terms, all 1804 (dated) dollars are therefore novodels.)


Given Alexander III's unexpected death, they probably continued to make coins using his dies well into Nicholas' reign--there simply wasn't sufficient time/warning to make the dies with Nicholas' portrait on them. Those coins would be counted as pieces from 1895 in mintage reports. (And the 1895 mintage data doesn't seem to exist--but we know that pieces _dated_ 1895 are of the highest rarity.) I remember purchasing an 1893 25 kopek piece and being told by the dealer who sold it to me that at least I knew that I was getting a coin produced during Alexander's reign. And yes it was in fact scarcer than the 1894--same situation at work.

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