The Willis H. duPont - Georgii Mikhailovich Collection of
Russian Coins and Medals

    There are over 10,000 Russian coins and 1,250 medals in this collection once owned by the Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich, nephew of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. The accumulation forms the basis for the National Numismatic Collection's Russian section, the finest collection of Russian coins outside of Russia, including many great rarities and pattern pieces.

    Catherine the Great, Alexei Mikhaelovich, 1/2 czernovetz

    The collection begins with a few examples of ingots and coins from the early principalities which made up Russia, and then goes on to the time of Peter the Great, who is very well represented, including over 400 rubles, plus many examples of the smaller denominations and various medals and commemorative pieces. Of special interest are the very rare pattern two ruble piece of 1722, and the beard tokens of 1705, issued at the time when Peter had ordered the Boyars (Russian nobility) to shave their traditional beards as part of his program to modernize Russia.

    Nicholas I, Alexander I,

    Highlights of the collection include examples of coins and medals from every ruler after Peter the Great (1689-1725) up to the Russian revolution. Among these coins are the "pugachev" ruble of 1771, a coin erroneously associated in popular mythology with the Cossack Emilian Pugachev, leader of the famous peasant uprising during the reign of Catharine the Great, and the beautiful "Family" 1 1/2 rubles of Nicholas I, representing the head of Nicholas I's wife, the Tsarina Alexandra Fedorovna, surrounded by the heads of their seven children.

    The most outstanding rarity of the collection is the Constantine ruble of 1825, which has an interesting story attached to it. After Alexander I's death, his brother, Constantin Pavlovitch, then governor of Poland, was proclaimed Tsar against his will, and coins were prepared in secret at the St. Petersburg mint. Due to Constantine's wishes, his younger brother was proclaimed Tsar instead, leaving the mint with five potentially embarrassing patterns portraying Constantine as Tsar. The coins were thus kept secretly at the Ministry of Finance for over fifty years before resurfacing as unique collector's items.