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Coins circulation periods in Imperial Russia


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I have always been curious as to how long various types of coins remained in circulation in Imperial Russia and what the official rules and procedures were in place for removal of old types from circulation. Rule of thumb suggests that following a devaluation coins of previous (heavier) type become worth more dead than alive and are removed from circulation, but a huge amount of surviving coins of older types contradicts this hypothesis. Also, many surviving coins of older types are so heavily worn than one must guess their denomination. Why did they continue to circulate?

 

As a starting point, let's take a snapshot of coins in circulation a hundred years ago, right on the eve of the Great war. What would be the oldest dated coins a shopkeeper might find in his cash register?

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I think we should take this from a different point of approach. I'm suspecting that metal values at a certain time in history played an important role in determining the fate of such coins. This is particularly true for platinum and copper coins. I cannot say with much confidence with gold and silver but I suspect it's somewhere along the lines.

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I do not know the answer to your question, but having read some notes by Petrov, introductions to old catalogs, and Kuprin's memoirs, I am left with an impression that older coins were often found in change all the way up to 1917. Old coins were also very often donated at the church. Petrov, as I recall, had developed an interest in numismatics after he had found a bucket of old coins at the church that he was restoring. Kuprin in his childhood sold his collection of old coins to a priest's apprentice (diachok) to buy his mother a present. I get the impression that the source of his collection was loose change.

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I think clear distinction needs to be determined as to location of circulation too, certainly coins in the far flung Oblasts circulated a lot longer than they did in the larger European Russian cities. Another factor is literacy - people to whom coins are familiar by design but texts, dates etc mean nothing to are not inclined to save something dated 1827 in say 1915. Literacy rates in Russia were pretty low before the Revolution.

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I do not know the answer to your question, but having read some notes by Petrov, introductions to old catalogs, and Kuprin's memoirs, I am left with an impression that older coins were often found in change all the way up to 1917. Old coins were also very often donated at the church. Petrov, as I recall, had developed an interest in numismatics after he had found a bucket of old coins at the church that he was restoring. Kuprin in his childhood sold his collection of old coins to a priest's apprentice (diachok) to buy his mother a present. I get the impression that the source of his collection was loose change.

I think you are right about old coins remaining in circulation up to 1917. Large supply of old coins from circulation would certainly explain why most rouble coins were worth just a rouble according to Petrov. Roubles we consider rare today went for a mind buggling price of 2 rouble, etc. The question then becomes why old coins were not removed from circulation more diligently by the authorities. I understand some countries lacked certain base metals to produce sufficient supply of coins to satisfy their monetary needs and had to keep coins in circulation past their normal wear and tear. This certainly can not be said about Russia in the XIXth -XXth centuries; mintages and varieties of coins seem to be more than sufficient to meet monetary demand of the population. Not to mention the fact that Russia heavily relied on paper money for larger transactions.

 

...Need to revisit Kuprin.

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Don't know about the 19th century, but in the 18th century they were trying to remove the wire kopecks from circulation, and it wasn't that easy. There were numerous examples of the government trying to get rid of problematic coins, all were expensive cumbersome and not that successful. Lets just say we still have access to plenty of silver wires and light weight 5 kopecks (1723 type).

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Old habits die hard. As you know a significant part of the population was not happy about Peter's reforms in general and the coinage reform in particular. In the XVIIIth c. Russia had issues with both silver and gold supply. The silver supply issue was largely resolved during the reign of Anna Ioanovna, while the gold supply issue lingered into the reign of Nicholas I; however there is no reason to beleive that there was any shortage of base metal after 1840's. Gold coins were removed from circulation after the Crimean war, but this is a different story.

 

 

Lets just say we still have access to plenty of silver wires and light weight 5 kopecks (1723 type).

I am still scratching my head as to why.

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I think clear distinction needs to be determined as to location of circulation too, certainly coins in the far flung Oblasts circulated a lot longer than they did in the larger European Russian cities.

100% agree. I would love to see a study on regional money supply, e. g. Moscow, Peterburg, Gubernskie goroda, etc. I am pretty sure plenty of data exists, however I am not aware of any study on the subject. It seems that after Spasski's work on the history of Russian monetary system successive generations of numismatists focused their energies primarily on counting eagle's feathers and measuring the size of the crown rather than studying the issues related to coin circulation.

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100% agree. I would love to see a study on regional money supply, e. g. Moscow, Peterburg, Gubernskie goroda, etc. I am pretty sure plenty of data exists, however I am not aware of any study on the subject. It seems that after Spasski's work on the history of Russian monetary system successive generations of numismatists focused their energies primarily on counting eagle's feathers and measuring the size of the crown rather than studying the issues related to coin circulation.

 

I know that in Britain and France surveys were done in the early 19th century on what coins were in circulation in particular areas - for instance a survey was done in Yorkshire in 1842 that demonstrated that most of the bronze coins in circulation were still dated 1797-1806. It is recounted in the book "Small Change in Scotland". Similarly a survey in southern France found that occasional Roman era coins were still circulating! It was conjectured that they were probably dug up long after the Roman era and re-circulated by illiterate peasants.

 

About the only era in Russian history before 1917 when coins were really given a lot of scrutiny was during Petr I's reign with the recoinage and the eventual elimination of wire kopeks from circulation. It is believed that Petr had discussed coinage and minting practices with Sir Isaac Newton during his visit to Britain in the 17th century.

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There were a few instances of forceful removal of certain coin types from circulation, most notable one being Ivan portrait coins. Also, the removal of 1723 5 kop. already mentioned However, due to the fact that the exchange laws were unfair to the population, a lot of them were hidden away and, therefore, survived.

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There were a few instances of forceful removal of certain coin types from circulation, most notable one being Ivan portrait coins. Also, the removal of 1723 5 kop. already mentioned However, due to the fact that the exchange laws were unfair to the population, a lot of them were hidden away and, therefore, survived.

 

The later 18th century 5 kopek coins are a prime example. They must have been saved instead of being scrapped - I have quite a few of them.

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The later 18th century 5 kopek coins are a prime example. They must have been saved instead of being scrapped - I have quite a few of them.

 

That is the stuff I collect. I imagine that the 1758 5kopeks and the later dates circulated at least until 1810 as the same weight standard prevailed.

But what about the 1762 10 kopeks? :confus:

Sigi

 

-

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Here is what I think. My 5 cents... ;) While the change-over of coins from 5 cruciform kopecks to 2 kopecks was so slow, and people had to deal with coins that had different weight as opposed to what the denomination was stated on coins, they have learned to use coins by weight... apart from very common coins, that they would adjust accordingly to their already known loss of written nominal. You just had to remember, that 5 kopecks is really 3 kopecks, 10 kopecks is no more and it is really 5 kopecks, etc. It is really that easy with copper. With silver it's a little more complected. The coins that were low in silver were slowly phased out, as people hated them... As to the numbers of the wire kopecks and 5 kopecks of Elizaveta and Ekaterina, I agree. They were stored in the ground banks until reveled by treasure-hunters. Silver kopecks, if found, were sold as a scrape metal by kilos...

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I know that in Britain and France surveys were done in the early 19th century on what coins were in circulation in particular areas - for instance a survey was done in Yorkshire in 1842 that demonstrated that most of the bronze coins in circulation were still dated 1797-1806. It is recounted in the book "Small Change in Scotland". Similarly a survey in southern France found that occasional Roman era coins were still circulating! It was conjectured that they were probably dug up long after the Roman era and re-circulated by illiterate peasants.

 

Very interesting. I guess the conclusion from this observation is that the problem was widespread though out Europe and perhaps the cost of collecting old coins outweighed the benefits of melting them. So, the governments just let them circulate until they died of natural causes. Well, good for us!

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Here is what I think. My 5 cents... ;) While the change-over of coins from 5 cruciform kopecks to 2 kopecks was so slow, and people had to deal with coins that had different weight as opposed to what the denomination was stated on coins, they have learned to use coins by weight... apart from very common coins, that they would adjust accordingly to their already known loss of written nominal. You just had to remember, that 5 kopecks is really 3 kopecks, 10 kopecks is no more and it is really 5 kopecks, etc. It is really that easy with copper. With silver it's a little more complected. The coins that were low in silver were slowly phased out, as people hated them... As to the numbers of the wire kopecks and 5 kopecks of Elizaveta and Ekaterina, I agree. They were stored in the ground banks until reveled by treasure-hunters. Silver kopecks, if found, were sold as a scrape metal by kilos...

This is very plausible for the XVIIIth c. ...........Following the copper reform of 1867 (which I believe was carried out w/o any loss to the purchasing power of copper coins) a stable coin system was established that lasted for 50 years. You would think that by early XXth c. people have got sufficiently used to the new coinage to part with their beloved Katherine's pyataks and semaks and later date altyns. You would also think that the logistics have improved sufficiently to make coin exchange more profitable for the authorities. Well that thinking is rebuffed by the cold facts....

 

...."the ground banks" is a classic.

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