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    Russian-American Co. 25 Kopeks Ex: Clifford

    Russia Russian-American Company 25 Kopeks ND (1816-1867) Pick UNL Kardakoff 53.2 PMG Choice Uncirculated 63.
    After nearly four decades since the offering of the Henry Clifford Collection, two significant notes of American Territorial significance are being offered here today.

    Chartered by Czar Paul I in 1799, the Russian-American Company had a monopoly on trade in Russian America. The territory included the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, and extended as far south as present-day Northern California. Fort Ross, located in Sonoma County, CA was established by the Russian-American Company (RAC) in 1812. The state-sponsored trading company also had Fort Elizabeth built on the island of Kauai, Hawaii in an attempt to gain influence there as well. The RAC was similar in scope to the Hudson's Bay Company and the East India Companies. In all, the Russian-American Company was established with the sale of 724 shares at 1,000 rubles each, for a total of 724,000 rubles.

    To facilitate trade in each of the company's theaters of operations, notes were produced by the Russian-American Company and issued circa 1816 to 1867. Seven different denominations have been reported: 10, 25, and 50 Kopeks along with 1, 5, 10, and 25 Rubles.

    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 the notes circulated in nearly every locale the company operated, from Russia to Alaska, and into California.

    In 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated the sale of Alaska to the United States for $7 million dollars and the RAC ceased operations. The purchase was known as "Seward's Folly" until gold was discovered.

    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.

    An estimated 150-200 total pieces of Russian-American Company scrip are believed to survive today, with many of the survivors 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.

    While some examples of the Walrus Skin notes in high grade have passed through auction in recent decades, it is widely accepted that the largest offering of the highest graded examples was part of the Henry Clifford Collection in 1982. The two pieces here stood the test of time with incredible third-party grades of Choice Uncirculated 63, and Choice Uncirculated 64 EPQ. The 25 Kopeck example shows the four clipped corners, as issued, to designate the denomination. The serial number 17346 remains bold, with the skin in ideal condition. On back is the company seal, with the iconic two-headed eagle used by the Russian crown.

    With so few offerings in high grade, and most survivors impounded in government institutions, the current offering will prove exciting for buyers specializing in Russian issues, or notes from the early United States and its territories.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2020
    9th-13th Thursday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 949

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