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Russian Proof Coins From the Kiev Collection Shine at August ANA Sale

The
August ANA Convention is now numismatic history but the impressive results from
Session B of the Stacks Bower’s Galleries world coin sale are still being felt.
The bidders’ appreciation of quality was apparent throughout the sale and was
very clearly seen when the Kiev Collection came to the podium within the
extensive Russian segment of the session. Having been collected during the
1980s under the guidance of Lawrence R. Stack, these extraordinary pieces had
been off the market for a quarter century and the excitement over the offering
was palpable.


Kicking
off the collection was lot 21433, a fabulous double-headed imperial eagle type,
a PCGS Proof-65 Cameo 5 Ruble from one of the final years for this design,
before the return of the Tsar’s portrait on the obverse. Brilliant with
flashing proof surfaces contrasting with the unbroken frosted devices, this
piece immediately topped its high estimate at the open, before live bidders
drove the price up to $44,650, a clear sign of things to come.


Within
four lots bidders were treated to two more gems from the Kiev Collection, lots
21436 and 21437. This nice pairing of an 1886 5 Ruble and an 1887 10 Ruble mark
the first and second years of portrait coinage for Alexander III and fully
display the technical acuity of the Saint Petersburg mint. The high rarity of
these pieces is reinforced by population reports showing populations in the
single digits for both pieces. Small proof mintages were compounded by the
reduction of the Ruble by one third weight of gold in 1897 and earlier issues
found their way to the melting pot in great numbers. Collectors recognized the
opportunity to procure these rare pieces and after the final hammer dropped
they had brought $111,625 and $88,125 respectively.


The
next lot featured an 1888 Borki Railway Disaster silver medal graded PCGS SP-63,
quite large and impressive with the entire imperial family rendered on the
reverse. The historical incident it commemorates is quite intriguing. On
October 29, 1888, the Romanovs were traveling via rail from Crimea to Saint
Petersburg when their train derailed near Borki Station. It was said that in
the ensuing chaos Alexander III supported the collapsed roof on his shoulders
allowing his children and wife to escape, although this was probably at least
in part propaganda. Other examples have been occasionally offered in the
decades since this piece was added to the Kiev Collection but it is seemingly
quite scarce. In the end the medal blew away estimates reaching a final price
of $39,950.


As
coins of Nicholas II made their way to the podium, the rarest and most
desirable pieces were brought to the fore. From the Kiev Collection a 1902 37 ½
Ruble, a 1903 5 Ruble, a 1903 10 Ruble and a 1908 25 Ruble made their
appearance. While the 1903 issues did not disappoint with results of five
figures each, the real stars of the show were the extremely rare large gold 37
½ and 25 Ruble pieces. Each piece was from a mintage of only a few hundred and
are among the most difficult to obtain items in Russian numismatics. The 37 ½
Ruble garnered much attention and finally landed at a very strong $199,750. However,
the best was yet to come with the single finest graded 1908 25 Ruble marking
the acme for the sale. This extreme rarity was from a reported mintage of only
150 pieces and was issued as a commemorative for Nicholas II’s birthday. The
broad flashing proof surfaces and undisturbed frosty devices brought this piece
up to the grade of PCGS Proof-65. After the dust had settled this piece had
gone for a jaw dropping $329,000, making a new high water mark for this type.


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