The History of a Famous Collection

The Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich was the nephew of Tsar Alexander II and first cousin of Tsar Alexander III. Numismatics was his all-absorbing interest from an early age. He was appointed director of the newly founded "Alexander III Museum" in 1895 and proceeded to devote all his knowledge and influence to increasing the museum's numismatic collection with rare and outstanding pieces, such as the Constantine rubles, or entire collections, such as the post-1700 Russian section of the Count Hutten-Czapski cabinet. In 1909 he donated his own collection to the Alexander III Museum, which was used as part of a massive work by a group of noted Russian scholars sponsored, and contributed to, by the Grand Duke on Russian coinage from Peter the Great up to the 20th century. The upheavals of World War I caused the worried Grand Duke to have his collection crated and stored at the State Loan Bank in St. Petersburg for safekeeping. During the Revolution four of the five crates made their way out of the country under misterious circumstances, and, came into the possesion of the Grand Duke's wife and two daughters. The Grand Duke himself had, in the meantime, met a tragic end in St. Petersburg in 1919 in front of a firing squad. The collection eventually made its way from Yugoslavia to the National Numismatic Collection in Washington, D.C. via Rome, New York, and Berkeley. Through the generosity of Mr. Willis H. duPont, this large and unique collection was bequeathed to the NNC in the late 1950's. Image of Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich in military uniform.