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Spitsbergen coinage


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Spitsbergen coinage is interesting - it's issued for a Russian coal mining town off an island that belongs to Norway. All coins were issued in Russia in 1946, 1993 and 1998. I'm missing just three coins.

My collection can be found here:

http://gxseries.com/numis/spitsbergen/spitsbergen.htm

Please feel free to post some of yours.

 

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Here are some notes and comments:

 

Spitsbergen or Spitzbergen (misspelt by the English) is a large island owned by Norway. In 1932, a Soviet company Arktikugol (literally - Arctic Coal) bought rights to mine coal”.

 

It is not 100% correct.
The island (actually, archipelago) was no one’s land till 1920, when by decision of Paris conference it was passed to Norway, but was announced demilitarised and neutral territory.
Russia did not participate in the conference and did not recognise the Norway rights for the island till 1924 when recognised them first by bilateral agreement with Norway, and fully recognised them only in 1935, thus joining the states which participated in 1920 international Paris conference.

 

The conditions adopted in 1920 included that citizens and enterprises of all the states can settle and work freely in Spitzbergen.
So Arcticugol, founded in 1931, did not need to “buy” any rights to start mining.
But in 1932 Arcticugol bought some coal mines from Norwegian company, these mines were added to other Russian assets in Spitzbergen (which belonged to Russia since second half of 19th century).

 

... why was there a need to issue different coinage for this mining town? "

 

These were not coins but rather corporate tokens with limited circulation.
And the reason why separate tokens and notes were issued instead using regular Soviet coins and banknotes you already explained yourself:

These … caused a huge uproar with the Norwegians. As the islands of the Svalbard archipelago belongs to Norway, putting "Russian Federation" on the coins caused controversies”.

 

1946 - 10, 15, 20, 50 kopek” (1 series)

There are also 2 varieties of 50 kopek coin differing by shapes of star and date digits.
This series was in circulation till 1957, when they were completely replaced by paper Arcticugol notes.

 

Collectors should beware of modern good quality fakes which exist for every denomination of 1946 issue.

 

As of why only these four types of coins were struck instead of the eight struck for Soviet Union (1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 50 kopek), I have no idea why

 

There were also several series of paper notes, with denomination strating from 1 kopek.

 

1993 - 10, 25, 50, 100 ruble” (2nd series)

 

It is for sure that it was Arcticugol who issued (ordered) this series.

But there are still some arguments among the collectors of whether this issue was “official” but not released into circulation due to problems with Norway, or “unofficial”.

Anyway, most probably these tokens never entered circulation.

 

Mintage is reported to be about 77500 for each denomination (total ca.300K), large (or most) part of which were later melted down.

 

3rd series: “1998 - 0.1, 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2, 5 (token)
… It is also likely that these coins rarely circulated and mintage are very low on these coins.”

 

These never circulated and even were not intended to.

This is undoubtely unofficial private issue, not authorised by Arcticugol or any Russian authorities.

All tokens minted went directly to coin dealers and collectors.

 

The mintage was 6000 of each denomination.

 

Plus some “probas” (trials) in several different metals - including even silver and gold (sic!) - up to100 pcs. of each type.

 

So the only true and undisputed circulating issue was that of 1946 (1st series).

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Thank you for pointing them out Candidate - will take note of them and will credit you for reference. :art:

 

By the way, how can we know about the 1946 counterfeit coins? I remember I have a catalog of the Spitsbergen coins - just can't remember the title of it. It's a limited run of 300 and I happen to have the last copy of it. Each book was manually hand stamped of it's issue number. I think it had some notes about the counterfeits - just never got around to take the dictionary to translate them. Have to find it...

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Thanks guys, this is fascinating information. What a wonderful series to collect. I'm sure it would be rather difficult to put together an entire set.

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