Rare PMG-certified “Walrus Skin” Notes Featured in Kagin's Auction
Posted on 3/8/2021
An impressive selection of Russian-American Company notes that were typically created using walrus skin is part of a sale this month. Certified by Paper Money Guaranty® (PMG®), the seven notes are featured in Kagin’s auction March 11-12, 2021. Bidding is already underway.
The Russian-American Company, chartered by the Russian tsar in 1799, operated in Alaska and other parts of North America until the mid-1800s. These “walrus skin” notes were fashioned from waterproof animal skin bags used to transport goods. Once the bags completed their trade route, pieces were clipped and stamped with official Russian-American Company markings, creating the unusual currency.
Denominations included 10, 25 and 50 Kopeks and 1, 5, 10 and 25 Rubles; four of these denominations are included in this sale.
The top note is a Russian-American Company 1816-52 50 Kopeks Walrus Skin Note graded PMG 63 Choice Uncirculated (lot 6003), with an estimate of $45,000 to $60,000. The Russian imperial double-headed eagle is stamped on the front, while the denomination and a handwritten serial number are located on the reverse.
|Russian-American Company 1816-52 50 Kopeks Walrus Skin Note graded PMG 63 Choice UncirculatedClick images to enlarge.|
The sale also features a second 1816-52 50 Kopeks example, graded PMG 50 About Uncirculated EPQ by PMG (lot 6004), with an estimate of $35,000 to $50,000.
These notes were circulated throughout outposts and settlements in Alaska, California and Hawaii, with hunters, traders and indigenous people utilizing this official money. To address the uneven levels of literacy among the users of this currency, the Russian-American Company created notes of varying shape and color to differentiate between the values. For example, the top corners of the 50 Kopeks were clipped, while the 10 Kopeks had hole-punched corners.
A bright yellow Russian-American Company 1816-52 1 Ruble Walrus Skin Note graded PMG 50 About Uncirculated and pedigreed to the Clifford and Ford Collections (lot 6006) is another attractive lot. It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.
|Russian-American Company 1816-52 1 Ruble Walrus Skin Note graded PMG 50 About Uncirculated (lot 6006) Click images to enlarge.|
This mustard color is an excellent example of colorization used on some notes, which was typically stamped on a light background, making handwritten serial numbers and signatures easier to read.
Another 1816-52 1 Ruble example, this one graded PMG 40 Extremely Fine (lot 6005), is also offered in the sale. It has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000.
All four corners are clipped on this Russian-American Company 1816-52 25 Kopeks Walrus Skin Note graded PMG 62 Uncirculated (lot 6002). It has an estimate of $27,500 to $40,000.
|Russian-American Company 1816-52 25 Kopeks Walrus Skin Note graded PMG 62 Uncirculated (lot 6002)Click images to enlarge.|
A Russian-American Company 1816-52 10 Kopeks Walrus Skin Note graded PMG 61 Uncirculated (lot 6001) is estimated around $25,000 to $35,000. Another 10 Kopeks, this one an ND (1820) example graded PMG 35 Choice Very Fine (lot 6007), has an estimate of $2,500 to $3,500.
|A Russian-American Company 1816-52 10 Kopeks Walrus Skin Note graded PMG 61 Uncirculated (lot 6001)Click images to enlarge.|
Over time, the vast majority of the Kopeks and Rubles were forever lost to history. Many of the few dozen known to survive are in museums, which makes the gathering of seven of them in one auction a truly special moment in numismatics.
The Kagin’s sale also includes a fascinating group of privately issued Hawaiian currency used in the mid-1800s, well before it was annexed by the United States. To learn more, click here.
All estimates are provided by the auction house.
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