Russia Russian-American Company 25 Rubles ND (1816-1867) Pick UNL Kardakoff 53.7 PMG About Uncirculated 55.
Subsequent to our offering last January from the Henry Clifford Collection, we are pleased to offer this, the best piece from his famed auction. It is, without a doubt, one of the most significant and interesting world banknotes offered at auction in the last decade. We would argue that its story, rarity, unusual medium, and appeal to a wide range of collectors make it one of the top notes from anywhere in the world.
The story of the Russian-American Company began in 1799, when Czar Paul I chartered the company to monopolize on trade in Russian America. Alaska was part of Russia’s land holdings. One of the primary businesses of the Russian-American Company was fur trading. The notes are often referred to as “walrus or sealskin money” because some of the notes were actually printed on walrus skins or other skins, including this example. Otter skins were shipped in waterproof walrus skin bags and the bags were then recycled to produce the notes. In Russia the notes were known as Kozhanye (skins). Contemporary accounts show that the notes circulated in nearly every locale in which the company operated, from Russia to Alaska, and into California.
The Alaskan Parchment Scrip of the Russian American Company 1816-1867, Randolph Zander’s 1996 48-page monograph, is the most comprehensive reference on the subject. Zander expanded upon Ted Uhl’s earlier research. In the monograph, Zander explains that beginning circa 1842, changes to the physical appearance of certain notes were performed by hand and were made as a means of differentiating the various denominations, as much of the native population was illiterate. The upper corners of the 10 kopek notes were holed, all four corners of the 25 kopek pieces were clipped, and the 50 kopek examples were clipped at the upper two corners. The 25 rubles note, as seen here was not clipped and represented the largest denomination issued.
The 25 rubles note offered here is unique for denomination, out of an estimated 150-200 total pieces of Russian-American Company scrip believed extant across all denominations. Many of the survivors are now housed in museums around the world, including the Hermitage, the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in St. Petersburg, the Smithsonian, the National Museum in Helsinki, and the Ulster Museum in Belfast, leaving very few pieces available to private collectors.
The crest on the back of the 25 rubles note is different than the others. The lesser denominations all feature the first variant of Nicholas I’s coat of arms. This denomination shows the second variant with of the Imperial Coat of Arms with six regional coats of arms in the emblem, signifying Russia’s ever-expanding sphere of influence. At bottom is the denomination in cursive Cyrillic.
The Henry H. Clifford Collection was easily the finest assemblage of these notes, and that included the PMG Choice Uncirculated 64 EPQ 50 Kopeks note we sold in our FUN Auction last year for $66,000. As the lone survivor, this note should easily eclipse that mark.
Ex: Ted Uhl, Henry H. Clifford