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Copper Coins from the Reign of Empress Elisabeth of Russia (1741-1762)

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Polushkas (1/4 kopeck) 1757-1759

Coins of this type were minted at the Sestroretsk (1757, 1758) and Ekaterinburg (1757-1759) mints. The coins do not have mint marks, but by observing the stylistic details it is possible to guess with a certain degree of confidence which mint produced a specific coin (provided that coin has enough detail).

I attributed the following 1757 Polushka to the Ekaterinburg Mint mostly due to the shape of the crown (taller crown) above the cypher.


While the following 1757 Polushaka, bearing a different crown, may be the product of the Sestroretsk mint:


In 1759 coins were struck only at the Ekaterinburg mint:



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Denga (1/2 Kopeck) 1757 - 1760

Denga coins were struck at the Sestroretsk (1757), Ekaterinburg (1757-1760) and Moskow (1759, 1760) mints

Coins of this period struck at Ekaterinburg often feature St George riding a horse with some detail of hair engraved on his horse:


The only other mint striking Dengas in 1757 is Sestroretsk, so this stylistically different coin can be attributed to that mint (the difference in the crowns should also be noted):


Similar analysis for 1759:

Ekaterinburg due to the horse with detailed hair


Moscow with notable stylistic differences (the digits of the year are quite different:


in 1760 Ekaterinburg only minted 326 Dengas (if the reports are to be trusted), I do not know the numbers for Moscow mint. It would be interesting to look for a 1760 Ekaterinburg denga, it may prove challenging.

This coin is clearly of the Moscow mint, note the similarities with the 1759 above):





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1 Kopeck 1757-1761:

1 Kopeck coins were struck at the Sestroretsk (1757, 1758), Ekaterinburg (1757-1760) and Moskow (1759, 1760) mints

In 1757 1 kopeck coins were struck in Ekaterinburg and Sestroretsk. Sestroretsk struck 80470 pieces, while Ekaterinburg struck over 6.5 million.

However this coin is clearly of the Sestroretsk issue (note the crown):


Similarly the following 1758 cons are from Sestroretsk as well (note the defect on the crown):



The 2nd 1758 kopeck bears traces of an undercoin. These were often struck over Swedish Ore coins.

This 1759 kopeck is of the Moscow mint:


While this one is from Ekaterinburg:


Ekaterinburg produced only 200 1 kopeck pieces in 1760, it would be very hard to find one. The following coin is of the Moscow mint:





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2 kopeck coins are, to me, the most interesting in this period. They were minted by all mints: Ekaterinburg, Setroretsk, St Petersburg and Moscow in staggering amounts. The primary purpose of the monetary reform in 1757 was to increase the amount of money available to the royal treasury which was needed to pay for the expenses of the war that started in 1756 and involved all major European powers (The Seven Years' War 1756-1763). Russian Empire was mostly involved in the conflict with Prussia, as numismaticly evidenced by the 1757 issue of Livonian coins and later the Prussian coins to support their troops in the foreign expeditions:

Example of a Russo-Livonian coin:




The needs of the military were great, and all the copper available to the mints as well as the 1723 type 5 kopecks and the 1755 type 1 kopecks in the possession of the treasury, were quickly converted to the new (1757) types of the 2 kopeck coins. Essentially doubling the amount of money that the treasury gained from the emission. 

Interestingly there are 2 types of the 2 kopeck coins that were issued contemporaneously by all mints:

Denomination above St George:


And denomination below:


The later variety is predominant in numbers and stylistically identical to the lower denominations: 1 Kopeck, Denga, Polushka.

The reasons for the existence of the former variant, as I understand them, are the problems of direct overstriking of 5 and 1 kopeck coins. The inscription of the denomination is much larger and has a greater chance of being legible on the coins that keep numerous remains of the host coin:


Compared to a particularly bad overstrike of the 2nd type:


In the above examples we can see that denomination is much more legible on the 1st type.

In fact the Ekaterinburg mint did make a concerted effort of using the 1st type for overstriking and the 2nd for newly minted coins.

As far as I know, and I could be wrong, the 1st type was used by all mints only in 1757, and was abandoned by all but the Ekaterinburg mint completely in favor of the 2nd type by 1758 (and possibly sooner). The reason for his isn't entirely clear, but is probably related to the circumstance that the central mints (Moscow and St Petersburg) did not have that much raw copper on hand  and were mostly involved in the direct overstriking. While the Setroretsk mint worked with fresh copper and the stock of Swedish copper Ore coins (these coins were probably obtain through trade but perhaps also related to the Russo-Swedish war of 1741-1743). 

Logically, if the reasons for the 1st type of the new 2 kopeck coin design are to do with the difficulties of overstricking, the Moscow and St Petersburg mints would be predominantly using that 1st type of the dies but in fact they mostly use the 2nd type and abandon the 1st.  I would venture to guess that the necessity of the inscription for the largely illiterate population wasn't very high, and wasn't worth the confusion of having in circulation 2 different types of the same denomination. 1757 copper coins being light weight, and thus profitable for the counterfeiters,  would already be treated with suspicion by the population, it would make sense to keep this confusion to the minimum and keep the design that is consistent through all denominations.


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I will begging by examining a classifying coins from my collection that I arbitrarily refereed to in the above introduction as the 2nd type - i.e Denomination Below St George.

All mints consistently produced these coins as long as they had enough material for them.  The Sestroretsk mint was essentially a subsidiary of the St Petersburg mint and they received their tools and equipment from St. Petersburg. As far as I know there is no easy way to distinguish the coins produced by these 2 mints.  One possible way of attribution is to classify all overstruck coins with the 5 kopeck and 1 kopeck hosts as the product of the St Petersburg mint. Thus presuming that the coins that do not have any clear signs of an undercoin are a product of the Sestroretsk mint:




And lets attribute the overstikes to St Petersburg:




As Eugene Skopchenko of this forum and many overs had noted, the most distinct element of the St Peterburg and Sestroretsk coins is the shape of the curls at the end of the denomination scroll.  Over distinct elements of these coins is that the butt of the spear is comparatively shorter, the crown is fairly even, and the shape of the numerals is very light.

Lets compare them to the Moscow mints coins:






I believe it was first the notable historian and numismatist Mr Evdokimov who shared his research into the attribution of these coins by mints with the wider community. He pointed out that the amongst other notable design elements some Moscow mint coins bare a hidden pseudo mint mark as a decorative element within the bottom left corner of the saddle cover under and behind St George. Though it may be hard to see there is a small X at that location that has been described as crossed sabers or muskets (lets call that crossed arms).

Beyond that I would point to the very heavy font of the numerals in the date, and the shape of the curls at the end of the denomination scroll are very different from the St Petersburg type.

Looking at the above coins as a group the 2nd 1757 coin and the 2nd 1759 coins stand out. The 1757 has a very distinct design of the horse, with a pointed rump as compared to all the overs, while the digits of the 1759 do not look quite like the digits of the other coins, in some ways it looks a bit like the Ekaterinburg type coins which makes correct attribution tricky. The reasons form my final attribution of the 1759 to the Moscow mint is the aforementioned X on the saddle cover and that fact that it is an overstrike on a 1 kopeck coin. Ekaterinburg mint did not use the 2nd type of dies for overstrikes. However this illustrates the difficulties and the sometimes uncertain nature of this inderect attribution method.

On to Ekaterinburg, which probably produced the lions share of Russian copper coins due to its proximity, and thus consistent supply of copper, that was mined in the Ural mountains:









Two very distinct elements of the Ekaterinburg mint are the shape of the crown which looks taller than on the other coins, and a purposeful addition of ball, perhaps a counterweight, on the butt of St George's spear. The horse is often depicted with some detail of bristle on the body. The dragon has a striped tail.






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The 1st type of 2 kopeck coins- i.e Denomination Above St George is, while also mass produced, is far less common than the 2nd type.  Most of the coins that I have encountered and have in my collection are from the Ekaterinburg mint.  My impression is that other mints abandoned the production of this type in 1757.






Unfortunately, these coins are well circulated and do not have a lot of details for analysis. But the shape of the horse and the crown do appear very constituent.

I have another coin that is from 1757 and doesn't fit this pattern:


Here the shape of the crown may resemble that on the 1760 coin, but it is hard to tell since the 1760 is so off center. The horse looks a bit different due to having a rounded rump. Being dated 1757 it could be from Moscow or St Petersburg mint, but I still attribute it to Ekaterinburg.

The font of the digits, to my eye, resembles the most that of this undoubtedly Ekaterinburg coin:



As I pointed out earlier, some variations and similarities in design elements between the coins make precise  attribution sometimes challenging, at least to me :) .




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A word on edge variations among the 2 kopeck coins of both types. In the early catalogs there is some confusion regarding the netted and inscribed edges, which migrated to some more recent catalogues. The 1758 Type 1 (value above) coin with a netted edge was given an estimate of 10 roubles by Ilyin, while the 1758 type 2 variant with the inscribed edge wasn't even mentioned.

In every case the lettered edge was an inherited edge. None of the mints added an inscribed edge on any of the 2 kopeck coins. As the Type 1 designed was meant to be used for overstriking of 5K and 1K coins, all of Type 1 kopecks simply retain the edge of the original host. The hosts could be 5K with a large net, or 1K with small net or Ekaterinburg or Moscow mint inscriptions.

The Ekaterinburg mint produced 1 kopeck coins with the corresponding edge inscription. These coins formed the majority of what it overstruck, so most of the Type 1 coins have the Ekaterinburg edge. In the pile of old coins at Ekaterinburg there would occasionally be a 5K piece or an MMD/SPB netted edge 1K, and thus a smaller portion of the coins have that netted edge:


Above is a direct overstrike from a 5K coin, with a netted edge.

In 1757 when all mints produced Type 1 coins, the central mints had more 5K and locally produced 1K (netted edge) coins to overstrike, the ratio was a bit more even towards the netted edge, although the inscribed edge still dominates. That's why 1757 netted edge coins did not get the high valuation.


The Type 2 (denomination below) coins are somewhat similar, but with a few nuances. 

In 1757 Ekaterinburg had a stock of edged blanks that were meant for 1K coins, which it instead used to strike 2 kopecks with. These coins aren't overstrikes, but do have the Ekaterinburg edge inscription.


When central mints gave up on the idea of making type 1 coins, they used some of the production practices of making new coins for the overstrikes, for consistency. Namely they would add netted edge to blanks and old coins alike. In both cases the edging was sometimes skipped, and the newly made coins ended up with blank edges, while the overstrikes retained the old edge, which sometimes was the Moscow or Ekaterinburg inscription from the 1 kopecks:


Sometimes the coin would rolled out of the edging machine before the re-edging was complete, and the final coin would have an edge mixed of net and the old edge (sometimes inscription):


This coin has a small section of the netted edge along with the inscription.


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