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    Russian-American Company 25 Kopek "Walrus Skin Type" PMG Very Fine 25

    Russian-American Company 25 Kopek ND (1816-1867) Printed on Walrus Skin Parchment Pick UNL
    Eighteen 25 kopek examples, all with discernable serial numbers, are recorded in Zander's census. Of those 18, a mere 7 are held in private collections. This PMG Very Fine 25 example is housed in a comment-free holder. It is not uncommon for these pieces to exhibit soiling as this piece does, and in this case the serial number is no longer visible. The note measures 63mm by 55mm and is printed in black ink on a thick, off-white, textured skin. The corners are evenly clipped. The majority of the text on both sides remains visible, with the wording within the company seal clear and distinguishable overall.

    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.

    Notes were produced by the Russian-American Company and were issued circa 1816 to 1867. Seven different denominations have been reported: 10, 25, and 50 Kopeks along with 1, 5, 10, and 25 Roubles.

    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).

    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.

    We were pleased to offer a rare Russian-American Company 1 Rouble ND (1816-1867) Pick UNL in our recent Memphis auction, the first time that note had been available to collectors in 28 years. That scarce note, printed on parchment and one of two green ink examples known, sold for $18,975.

    While this example may not possess quite the eye appeal that piece held, this Kozhanye has added appeal in its own right due to the material it was printed on. Also long held in a private collection, this note was last offered as lot 872 in the June 1981 New England Rare Coin Auctions' Long Beach I Sale. Factoring in the scarcity of the Russian-American Company notes in general, rare auction appearances, along with the interest they hold for collectors of Russian and American numismatic material, we estimate this prized piece will realize...

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2010
    11th-16th Wednesday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,073

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