Russian coin sells for astounding $2.64 million

Art Daily
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One Russian Ruble is currently worth .013 U.S. Dollar with one major exception. This one's worth $2.64 million.
One Russian Ruble is currently worth .013 U.S. Dollar with one major exception. This one’s worth $2.64 million.

COSTA MESA, CA.-Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio, which is currently conducting another of their popular Hong Kong auctions, has sold the ‘Joseph/Richter’ specimen of the incredibly rare 1825 pattern ruble of Constantine for an astounding $2.64 million. This was the highest realization in the magnificent Pinnacle Collection, which featured many record breakers and market makers on its way to realizing a total of nearly $19.2 million. This monumental, once-in-a-generation crown is among just eight known, and one of only three with a plain edge. The last appearance of an 1825 pattern ruble of Constantine was in 2004, when this very specimen sold for $525,000, the highest amount for a non-U.S. coin at the time. Though it no longer holds this record, this storied ruble now stands as the highest valued non-U.S. coin auctioned by an American auction house and illustrates Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio’s continued leadership in the numismatic market across the globe.

The 1825 Constantine Ruble

Issued for the would-be emperor, Constantine Pavlovich, the pattern ruble stands as the only coin produced for a reign that never really happened. Constantine was the middle son of emperor Paul I, and was seemingly destined for a life as the “spare” to his elder brother’s status as “heir.” Following Paul’s assassination, Alexander (the elder brother), Constantine, and Nicholas (the younger brother), were all understandably weary of the crown’s burden. When Alexander died rather unexpectedly—and, more importantly, without a legitimate heir—the duty fell to Constantine. Mint officials, mindful that coins reinforce the divine right of a ruler to the masses, immediately began producing a prototype so that official coinage could continue without interruption. Constantine, however, had other plans; he decided, after just a few weeks, that he wanted no part of his tsarist duty, abdicating the throne in favor of Nicholas. In a flash, a would-be reign was brought to an end before it officially started. But what about the prototypes created by the mint officials? During this period of uncertainty, some eight examples were produced—five with edge lettering and three without. Rather than entering the melting pot, they were fortuitously preserved, with the five lettered edge specimens held for safe keeping within the Ministry of Finance and the three plain edge examples seemingly held by the officials present during their striking.

As the decades passed, the lettered edge rubles were obtained and dispersed by then-tsar Alexander II. Of the five, three are now held in museums (the Hermitage, the state Historical Museum in Moscow, and the Smithsonian). The remaining two have sold publicly and are presumably still in private collections. One last appeared in Bowers and Merena’s 1994 Baltimore auction, while the other has not officially been seen since 1898. Turning to the plain edge examples, all three have had a presence in the marketplace, but only this impressive piece from the Pinnacle Collection has been seen since 1981. It last crossed the auction block in January 2004, and since then the rare coin market has enjoyed tremendous growth and prosperity, especially during the past year. When the gavel last fell for this monumental pattern issue, a record was established, making it the most valuable non-U.S. coin to sell at that time. Nearly two decades later, the once lofty hammer price of $525,000 has been eclipsed by a factor of more than four.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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