Russian rarities abound in Swiss International Coin Auction AG’s Oct. 13 to 15 auction of the third part of a landmark collection of Russian coins and medals, called the Sincona Collection.
One of the major highlights is the 1757 Baroque-style kopek of Elizabeth, the first of its date to be identified, though researchers had anticipated its existence among the different dates of Baroque kopeks. The example in the auction confirms what expert Bernhard Brekke in 1997 speculated based on Saint Petersburg Mint records, according to Vadim Shiryaev, Russian expert for Sincona.
Brekke, writing in a supplement to The Copper Coinage of Imperial Russia, 1700 to 1917, co-authored by Tom Willy Bakken, noted that examples of the 1757 Baroque kopeks remained to be discovered.
“Mint records show 6,200 rubles’ worth were made, but so far, no one has confirmed the existence of a coin,” wrote Brekke and Bajjen in 1997. “The open question is whether every last piece was held back at the Mint for overstriking into two-kopeck pieces in 1757 or later, or whether — in the light of human fallibility — some few did escape into circulation.”
The example in the Sincona auction is the only example known, and its newly reported existence shows that at least this one 1757 example did escape, according to the catalog.
As Brekke and Bakken wrote, “To date, no such specimens are known, if and when one does surface, it will be one of the major rarities of the series.”
Because of the level of preservation of the example in the Sincona auction, which the firm grades as Good Extremely Fine, experts do not doubt that the piece is a 1757 Baroque kopek. If it weren’t in that condition, there may be some doubt about the type’s existence, Shiryaev said.
In 1755, Elizabeth instituted a revaluation of copper to help fuel the militaristic demands that characterized her reign. Only kopek coins were issued of the new value, and the coins are named for the unusual obverse design, featuring a cipher and eagle on a cloud. Most of the known 1755 and 1756 Baroque kopeks were struck over the earlier 5-kopek coins, and that practice continued briefly into 1757; the example in the Sincona auction itself is overstruck on a circa 1723 to 1730 5-kopek coin.
In 1757, however, a further devaluation occurred, and a new design was instituted, so the 1757 pieces of the Baroque design type issued since 1755 weren’t issued for a full year.
The example in the Sincona auction weighs 17.52 grams and measures about 34 millimeters in diameter. It is double struck on obverse and the 7 in the date was recut over a “6” on the die.
The 1757 Baroque kopek is missing from famous collections and auctions, and has never been sold publicly before.
It has an opening bid of 5,000 Swiss francs (about $5,343 in U.S. funds).