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Early Russia - Wire Money

Rich and vast, the Russian coin series spans many centuries, and with a little background, can prove quite fascinating for more than just the regional specialist. Kargopolj painting Its original appearance dates way back to ca. 1000 AD, when the newly converted Russian state produced some marvelous (though extremely rare and probably mostly ceremonial) issues after the Byzantine model. Yet, even before the crippling Tatar invasion, monetary issues disappear for almost 350 years, reemerging in the feudal principalities shaking off foreign yoke. Uninterrupted since to date, this newer series - the only one readily available to collectors - can be generally split into two parts: the first period of about 300 years, dominated by small hammered coinage ("wire money"), and the second, starting in the early reign of Peter the Great (end of 17th. c.), with the predominance of more modern, "milled" issues. Our focus here is mainly on the first period.

While this early Russian coinage often appears crude and dull - with the same "horseman" / 4-5 line inscription design repeated over different monarchs - it is not necessarily so. Apart from subtleties of titles, dates, mintmarks, dies, etc., one must also realize that the period of uniform imperial Muscovite design (beginning around 1547) was preceded by a vastly more diverse - if scarcer and harder to collect - period of feudal principalities. Usually crude in execution, these issues nonetheless portray a dazzling array of themes - many everyday and some mythological, most removed from any visible Christian context - and do so in stark contrast to the pious contents of the earliest Russian, or Byzantine and medieval Balkan coinage. We try to include some of these in our offering as well, and in any event - we hope you can catch at least a glimpse of this rich area on these pages...