Antique coins are not only an object of interest for collectors-numismatists, they are part of human culture. And some are also unique because they are historical artifacts that hide many secrets. These include the Siberian coin.
This copper money was issued during the reign of Catherine II for a relatively short time - from 1763 to 1781 - and were circulated exclusively in the territory of the Siberian province, which at that time was officially called the Kingdom of Siberia. These coins were minted from copper mined at the Kolyvan mine, owned by the Demidovs. But they were not released there, but at a specially constructed factory on the Lower Suzun River.
The Siberian coin, which had six denominations (half a penny, money, a penny, 2, 5, and 10 kopecks), is very different from the similar copper money that was in circulation at that time in the Russian Empire.
Firstly, in appearance, the Siberian coin completely did not meet the standards accepted then. On its obverse, instead of the two-headed eagle of the Russian Empire, a somewhat simplified, incomplete emblem of the Siberian kingdom is depicted: two sables that have risen on their hind legs, which hold a shield with the denomination and date of issue. Above the shield is a crown (but not the Russian imperial one), and in a circle the inscription: "Siberian coin."
The reverse is more consistent with the usual - on it is the monogram of Catherine with the Latin number II surrounded by a wreath. True, the traditional laurel branches are complemented by spruce. And one more detail: under the monogram the letters “K” and “M” - “Kolyvan copper”.
Secondly, Siberian copper coins are lighter than the same ones at face value of all-Russian. This is explained (at least according to the official version) by the composition of Kolyvan copper, in which silver was present (therefore it was more expensive), therefore, coins are lighter. If from a pound of ordinary copper coins were minted for 16 rubles, then from Kolyvan - for 25.
Thirdly, the coin has a corrugated, or, as the numismatists say, cord, edge, characteristic at that time exclusively for silver money. In 1763 and 1764, samples were even produced with an inscription on the edge, which is absolutely surprising for copper.
This is what the Siberian coin “penny” looked like .
Coin History: Official Version
To understand what such a strange kind of Kolyvan coins, or rather, Suzun coins, is associated with, we turn to history. According to the official version, there were two reasons for starting the release of Siberian money.
Firstly, the Kolyvan factories accumulated a significant reserve of copper, which remained after smelting from copper ore silver. Due to the shortcomings of the technological process, a significant percentage of the precious metal still remained in this “waste”. And Catherine II submitted a report proposing to mint money from this copper.
Secondly, it was unprofitable to transport this raw material to St. Petersburg and even Yekaterinburg coin mills, as well as supplying finished coins to Siberia. It was easier to arrange coinage on the spot. In this regard, Empress Catherine II in November 1763 signed a decree on the issue of Siberian coins.
It would seem that everything is logical. But in this version there is no explanation for either the strange appearance of copper money, or the short time it was minted.
Secrets of copper coins
The first of the mysteries lies in the very history of the Russian Empire of those times. The Siberian coin was issued precisely during the period of the Siberian kingdom, which existed from 1764 to 1782. It was then that the Siberian province was imperial decree renamed the kingdom with the right to coin its own money. So, perhaps the point is not the excess of copper and the high cost of its transportation, but precisely this? But the reason that prompted Empress Catherine to grant such rights to the Siberian Kingdom, and then - less than 20 years later - to abolish it, is still unknown. Since 1782, the mint on the Lower Suzun already issued ordinary copper coins that circulated throughout the Russian Empire.
The second of the mysteries is related to the weight of Kolyvan banknotes. According to the official version, the reason for the lower weight was the composition of copper. But modern scholars, such as I. G. Spassky, are convinced that the Siberian coin does not contain silver and does not differ in composition from those issued in St. Petersburg. Moreover, the first samples of 1763-1764 were minted there.
The reason for restricting the circulation of coins exclusively to the territory of Siberia (from the Irtysh to Kamchatka) is also incomprehensible, although it is known that they were widely used in trade with Asian countries. And if we accept for truth the official version about the special composition of copper, then the Siberian coin would be attractive to business people in the center of Russia. And they minted this money for 18 years a lot - more than 3.5 million rubles.
Silver Siberian money: original or fake?
Despite the fact that the Siberian coin was minted from copper, there are persistent rumors among the numismatists about the existence of silver Siberian money. Silver coins in denominations of 10 and 20 kopecks are found among collectors who are convinced of their authenticity; photographs of such samples can also be seen on numerous information resources of the relevant subject.
What did a silver Siberian coin look like? A photo with the image of her reverse and obverse is presented below.
However, researchers consider these coins to be fakes, since there are no historical documents about the existence of silver Siberian money. And there was no sense in issuing them, if one of the goals of coinage was the need to use the copper accumulated at the Kolyvan plant.
Therefore, according to experts, silver Siberian coins that impress collectors are a remake. In history, there was not even a draft of their coinage.