NGC Certifies Unique Russian 1755 Pattern 20 Rouble

Posted on 9/18/2008

Legendary rarity is among the most valuable European coins in existence.

NGC has recently certified a small group of Russian coins from the Grand Duke Mikhailovich Collection. Included among them was the unique Russian 1755 Pattern 20 Rouble, a legendary rarity believed to be among the most valuable European coins in existence. These important coins are scheduled to be sold by St. James's Auctions in London on November 6, 2008.


1755 Pattern 20 Rouble, NGC AU-58

Although it has not appeared publicly in nearly six decades, the 1755 20 Rouble frequently gets mention as one of the most important European coins ever struck. As part of Russia's effort to modernize and compete with Europe, it underwent a coinage reform in 1755 designed to permit its coins to circulate alongside those of England, France and the Netherlands. Produced for general circulation were gold five-rouble and ten-rouble coins. Also created solely in pattern form was this single gold piece valued at twenty roubles. The highest valued coin of the Imperial period, it was never adopted for circulation and remains unique.

Ken Krah, NGC Vice President and head of World coin grading reflects that, “Seeing the 1755 Russia 20 Rouble is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I handle many rarities every week at NGC, but grading this unique and important coin still inspired that special excitement. It's truly a privilege to be able to grade this magnificent coin.” Nearly mint state, it has been authenticated and graded by NGC as AU-58. This amazing specimen is also cataloged and plated in several references, most notably in Severin's Gold and Platinum Coinage of Imperial Russia 1701 to 1911, where it appears as number S-190.

The 1755 20 Rouble coin came to reside in the collection of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia (1863-1919), a first cousin of Emperor Alexander III. As the third son and fourth child of noble birth, his royal duties were mostly ceremonial. He was a voracious collector, building one of the finest collections of Russian coins and medals, and he also served as director of the Alexander III Museum.

A portion of the Grand Duke's collection was scheduled to be sold by his descendents in October, 1939. That sale was cancelled following the outbreak of war in September, and it was subsequently sold during Christie's sale of the Grand Duke Mikhailovich Collection in London in 1950. The 20 Rouble, which was featured in that sale, has not appeared on the market since.

“I can only find this one appearance of this coin at auction in 1950. It's very unusual to encounter a legendary coin that has only ever appeared at auction once in it's entire history, and there's a real likelihood that we may never see it offered again in our lifetimes,” notes Steven Fenton, owner of St. James's Auctions and Knightsbridge Coins. He further comments, “To me it's a trophy piece, the greatest Russian coin.”


1726 Catherine I 2 Rouble, NGC MS 62

The November 6, St. James's auction includes three other important Russian coins from the Grand Duke Mikhailovich Collection: a 1726 Catherine I, Sev-106B 2 Rouble, graded NGC MS62, a 1762 Peter III, Sev-247, 10 Rouble NGC AU53, and an important 1836 Russian 10 Rouble gold pattern, NGC MS62. These coins and the 1755 20 Rouble are described in a stand-alone 4-coin catalog, written in both English and Russian. The body of Novemeber 6 St. James's sale also includes other important Russian rarities and many world coins. To participate in the auction or for more information , contact St. James's Auctions at +44 207 930 8215 or by email stjauctions@aol.com. The catalog will be available for viewing online at www.sixbid.com in mid-October, and hard-copy catalogs are being distributed in the beginning of October.


1762 Peter III 10 Rouble, NGC AU 53

1836 Pattern Gold 10 Rouble, NGC MS 62