Platinum coins of the Russian Empire

[07.05.2020 22:53:17]

The world's most important coin metals are copper, silver and gold. However, in the 19th century platinum was added to this triad. The world's first platinum coins were minted and put into circulation in Russia: they were manufactured at the St. Petersburg mint for 17 years - from 1828 to 1845.

Traditionally, the coins of the Russian Empire were minted from gold, silver and copper. However, in 1819 in the Urals in alluvial gold was found a "new Siberian metal" - platinum. Rich deposits of platinum were discovered in 1824, and the next year the entrepreneur Demidov began its commercial production in the vicinity of his own Nizhny Tagil iron works. The density of the new metal was comparable with gold. To demonstrate its properties, the mining engineer Arkhipov together with the Ural masters made and sent to St. Petersburg the first products made of Russian platinum: a ring, a teaspoon, inkstand, chains and others, and in 1826 in honor of the coronation of Nicholas I they made a commemorative badge from platinum.

The cost of mining platinum was low, so the new metal was considered extremely promising. However, its melting point (about 1700 degrees) was much higher than that of gold and silver (1000 and 1200, respectively), making it difficult to produce products from platinum.

Minister of Finance E.Kankrin, who was also the head of the entire government mining service, wrote in 1829: "At first, the art of purification of this metal in large form remained unknown. Finally, at the end of 1826, a test-tester of the United Laboratory Sobolevsky invented a very simple, easy and convenient way to process platinum ...".

Sobolevsky's discovery made it possible to consider platinum as a metal for coinage. E.Kankrin addressed the State Council with his project of using platinum for coin making, but the idea of support was not found. Then the Minister reported his ideas directly to the Emperor. Nicholas I personally wrote on the project: "To demand the conclusion of the competent persons on this issue".

The expert was Alexander von Humboldt, a prominent German scientist and traveler, who had been the first to visit and describe Colombia's platinum deposits and was later interested in new metal.

E. Kankrin and A. Humbolt corresponded for several years. To his letter of 15 August 1827, Kankrin attached test samples of platinum coins, which are now kept in the Hermitage collection. Humboldt thanked for the "perfectly minted samples" and expressed his admiration for the quality of the precious metal processing. However, in general, the "platinum project" raised doubts for Humboldt.

Nevertheless, on April 24, 1828, a personal decree was issued on minting a "moderate amount" of platinum coin with a face value of 3 rubles. In 1829, was minted coin denomination of 6 rubles, and in 1830 - the nominal value of 12 rubles. Minting was conducted at the St. Petersburg mint.

For the convenience of minting new platinum coins used the same size as the silver 25 and 50 kopeks and ruble. Platinum at that time was estimated at about 6 times more expensive than silver, and its specific weight was twice as much as silver.

Kankrin's operation to replace silver and gold with platinum helped to buy back and destroy depreciated paper assignations, which were replaced by credit tickets in 1843. The Russian Empire was the first and only power in the world to put platinum coins into circulation.

Minting of coins from "Siberian metal" lasted from 1828 to 1845. After the introduction of paper credit tickets instead of assignations and the establishment of a silver coin as a standard, the question of the advisability of continuing the production of platinum coins appeared. Soon their minting stopped, and the coins already issued were withdrawn and melted down.

Until now, there are few platinum coins, and all of them are of great numismatic value. In our museum you can see 3-, 6- and 12-ruble platinum coins of different years of issue. In the collection of Goznak are preserved not only the coins themselves, but also the original tools for their minting.