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1860 20 Kopeck Variants


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As a variety collector I'm always interested in the years of issue when the coin design was changed in some way. 1860 is definitely one of those interesting years for silver denominations. I was recently lucky enough to complete my set of the 1860 20 kopeck variants that I would like to present here.

1860 starts off continuing the production of the 1859 style coins. In 1859 all denominations of coins in all metals were updated with the new style of eagle, often called the "thin eagle" among the collectors. The 20 kopeck coin presented below, featuring the "thin eagle" was struck on a 86.8% silver planchet weighing 4.14 grams.


However in 1860 the silver content in the smaller denominations (5, 10, 20 kopecks) was reduced. The new coins were made of 75% silver and the 20 kopeck weighed 4.08 grams, effectively reducing the total silver content in the 20 kopeck coin from 3.6 grams to 3.06 grams.  Perhaps to reflect this change and to distinguish between the coins with higher silver content and the new coins the design was changed.


As you can see the obverse was completely redesigned and at least 1 small but noticeable change was made to the reverse - namely the lie separating the denomination and the date was made larger and was added additional decorative elements.  This design was short lived and was altered later that same year.


This new design was adopted to all small silver denominations and stayed mostly unchanged for the rest of the Russian imperial period, up to 1917. The new obverse features an eagle that is slightly smaller but most noticeably has a wider tail, as such it is often refereed to as the "Wide Tail" variety, and the previous variety is the "Narrow Tail". The reverse features numerous smaller updates of which the most prominent is the new design of the ribbon tying the wreaths/branches. The new is more triangular with wider spread bottom ribbons.

In the 1860 a lot of 20 kopeck coins were struck. The official mint numbers don't reflect this, but the numbers we have are for the fiscal year and not the calendar year so do not reflect the actual number of coins dated 1860 minted. However the market holds many 1860 20 kopeck. Most common are the later variety - the "Wide Tail". Perhaps due to the high production quantities being minted the mint kept using the "Wide Tail" and the "Narrow Tail" dies simultaneously. We know this because there are 2 mule combinations of these dies.

The Mules (coins with mixed obverse/reverse) are rare. It is hard to gauge precisely how rare because most auctions and auction trackers don't seem able/interested in correctly identifying these variants. The coin below may be slightly more accessible:


This is a mule featuring the "Narrow Tail" obverse and the flat triangular ribbon reverse. These variants have been known for a long time, the above is Bitkin 168. The popular m-dv.ru auction aggregator lists this variety and currently shows 22 auction results (the earliest listing from 1997!) for this variety, unfortunately if one looks at the provided images there are only 3 distinct coins of this variety among the 22 listed results. Most coins show in that category are either the Narrow or Wide Tail variants and not the Bitkin 168 mule.

The second mule is my recent acquisition that completes the 1860 20 kopeck set.


This coin is the opposite Mule, featuring the newer Wide Tail obverse combined with the earlier reverse with the taller ribbon. This appears to be the rarest of these variants and is listed in Bitkin as 170.  Interestingly m-dv.ru list only a single coin in this category that was originally offered in 2013 by Sincona and is likely part of the Soderman collection. I looked through all of the other available images of the 1860 20 kopecks on the m-dv.ru, and was not able to find any additional examples of this or the other Mule variant among the 213 auction records.


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On 11/10/2021 at 11:12 PM, alexbq2 said:

Glad you liked my post Sigi! I didn't think these coins were heavy enough to catch your interest. 🙃

I sold most of  my collection in the late nineties,  since then  focussing  on the large coppers :crazy: 

Sigi -  http://www.sigistenz.com

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