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the family ruble from russia

The "Family Ruble" of Nicholas I — An Important 19th Century Crown

By Jeremy Bostwick, Senior Numismatist and Cataloger

Author: Jeremy Bostwick / Thursday, December 17, 2020 / Categories: World Coin of the Week

From talers to dollars, crown sized silver coins have always been a very popular with collectors. Given their size and the fact that they are generally the whole unit for their issuing authorities, crowns can play a vital role in shaping a narrative both domestically and abroad. A key aspect can be  ensuring the legitimacy of the ruling family and its future leaders. A German taler from the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1828 features King Ludwig's "blessings from heaven"—his wife and eight children, whose portraits all appear in small medallions upon the crown's reverse. While this coin may generate a Brady Bunch feel to a more modern audience, it sparked great interest within the imperial court of nearby Russia, whose emperor, Nicholas (Nikolai) I, was nearing his first decade of rule. The prospect of mirroring the Bavarian "blessings from heaven" issue was enticing as Nicholas had seven (legitimate) children at the time. In 1835, the Russian minister of finance commissioned engraver Pavel Utkin with recreating the Bavarian taler featuring Nicholas and his family. The end result, the so-called "family ruble," would become one of the most sought after crowns ever produced.

Though technically not a ruble, the designs by Utkin—and those later reissued in limited quantities in order to satisfy the needs of Russian numismatists—were actually struck to the standard of 1-1/2 rubles or, in Russian-dominated Poland, 10 Złoty. These rare and highly coveted crowns display, at the center of the reverse, the wife of Nicholas, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, surrounded by their seven offspring: Crown Prince Aleksandr (the future Emperor Alexander II), Grand Duchesses Maria, Olga, Alexandra, and Grand Dukes Konstantin, Nikolai, and Mikhail. Surviving in very small quantities and capturing this 19th century ruling family at the height of their power and influence, these crowns instantly became favorites of collectors and centerpieces to advanced collections of world crowns. Lot 20522 of our January 2021 auction will feature an example of this desirable issue—with a golden-champagne hue sprinkled throughout and a deeper tone near the peripheries. Given the popularity of Russian numismatics and crown-sized issues in general, we expect that this monumental "family ruble" should attract tremendous enthusiasm and strong bids.

To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.

We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our future auctions, and are currently accepting submissions through January 15, 2021 for our April 2021 Hong Kong auction. Our next CCO (Collectors Choice Online) auction will be crossing the block in February 2021, and has a submission deadline of January 12, 2021. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.