PMG-graded Walrus Skin Notes Highlight Currency Heritage Auctions at FUN Show

Posted on 12/16/2019

Issued by the Russian-American Company in the 1800s, the rarities are being offered in January 2020.

Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) has certified two 19th Century notes issued by the Russian-American Company on walrus skin parchment. They are being offered January 9, 2020, in the Heritage Auctions FUN World Paper Money Signature Auction in Orlando, Florida.

Chartered in 1799 by the tsar of Russia, the Russian-American Company helped facilitate the fur trade for nearly 70 years in western North America. It operated primarily in Alaska, which was part of Russia until it was sold to the United States in 1867. The company also established forts in California and Hawaii.

The walrus-skin money was used to pay hunters and company employees and could be exchanged for goods at the company stores. The notes were made from recycled walrus skin bags initially used to transport otter skins to China; in Russia the notes were known as Kozhanye (skins). Denominations included 10, 25 and 50 Kopeks and 1, 5, 10 and 25 Rubles.

The Heritage sale includes two such notes, both undated but issued sometime from the 1820s to 1860s. They include a 50 Kopeks graded PMG 64 Choice Uncirculated EPQ and a 25 Kopeks graded PMG 63 Choice Uncirculated. Both are pedigreed to the Henry H. Clifford Collection (auctioned in March 1982), and each has an estimate of $25,000 to $50,000.

Russian-American Company 50 Kopeks on walrus-skin parchment, graded PMG 64 Choice Uncirculated EPQ
Click image to enlarge.

Russian-American Company 25 Kopeks on walrus-skin parchment, graded PMG 63 Choice Uncirculated
Click image to enlarge.

As much of the native population was illiterate, the size, shape and color of the notes varied, depending on their denomination. The PMG-graded 25 Kopeks note, for example, is almost square with all four corners clipped, while the 50 Kopeks note has just the two upper corners clipped. The 25 and 50 Kopek denominations are black on off-white; other denominations have colors including brown, green, mustard-yellow and red.

The top 10 lots in the Heritage Auctions FUN World Paper Money Signature Auction are all certified by PMG. In addition to the two Russian-American Company notes, the other top lots are:

All estimates are provided by the auction house and in US dollars.

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