A Symphony of Russian Rarities The Rothschild-Piatigorsky Collection

Author: Stack's Bowers Galleries / November 17, 2023

Stack’s Bowers Galleries is excited to present a monumental offering as part of the firm’s annual New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC) sale. Built nearly a century ago and never displayed publicly, the Rothschild-Piatigorsky Collection was the combined efforts of Russian-born and internationally renowned cellist, Gregor Piatigorsky, and his wife, the Baroness Jacqueline de Rothschild—heiress to the important French banking dynasty of the same name. Following the Bolshevik Revolution, Piatigorsky—barely a teenager yet already the principal cellist at the Bolshoi—paid to be smuggled out of the Soviet state to seek artistic freedom. By 18, he was principal cellist at the Berlin Philharmonic, and he would routinely tour Europe throughout the 1920s. He married de Rothschild in 1937, but the couple and their young daughter were soon forced to flee Paris given the threat posed by Nazi Germany. In the United States, they first settled in the Mid-Atlantic before moving west to Southern California.

Given Piatigorsky’s lifelong kinship with Russia and her people, and de Rothschild’s family history centered around banking and even numismatics, it is appropriate that an impressive collection of Russian numismatic rarities would be on the couple’s checklist. In fact, along with their colossal assemblage of coins is an actual checklist bearing the stamp of Art Trading Co.—one of the main sources of material to the collection—and the various czars and czarinas from Peter “the Great” to Nicholas II handwritten in Russian. Monumental pieces in the collection include a 10 Rubles Novodel of Elizabeth, a 10 and 5 Rubles from the brief reign of Peter III, a 5 Rubles of Paul, a 25 Rubles from the reign of Alexander II (of which just 100 were struck), and two tantalizing denominations from Nicholas II—the 37-1/2 Rubles and the Imperial (a 10 Rubles Pattern).

Of particular interest, the original bill of sale for the 25 Rubles of Alexander II still exists. Made out to “Madame Piatigorski” on 22 April 1939, it refers to the great rarity of the coin, as well as its obverse and reverse design. Paid in full by check for the sum of $306, this titan of Russian numismatics has an auction estimate as high as 500 times that figure—and even that number may prove too low. Furthermore, family lore suggests that the gold used to strike this special emission of 25 Rubles was supplied to the Russian government by the Rothschild family. While we have been unable to verify such a claim, there was a definite connection between the French banking industry (which the Rothschild family dominated) and the imperial Russian court during the latter part of the 19th century. Even the 37-1/2 Rubles owes its very interesting denomination to the fact that this would allow it to be perfectly on par with the French 100 Francs of the era.

These incredible items, along with the rest of this fabled collection, will be featured in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries Official Auction at the New York International Numismatic Convention in January 2024. The entire auction will be available for viewing and pre-sale bidding in December at StacksBowers.com.

About Stack’s Bowers Galleries

Stack’s Bowers Galleries conducts live, Internet and specialized auctions of rare U.S. and world coins and currency and ancient coins, as well as direct sales through retail and wholesale channels. The company’s nearly 90-year legacy includes the cataloging and sale of many of the most valuable United States coin and currency collections to ever cross an auction block — The D. Brent Pogue Collection, The John J. Ford, Jr. Collection, The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection, The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, The Joel R. Anderson Collection, The Norweb Collection, The Cardinal Collection, The Sydney F. Martin Collection and The Battle Born Collection — to name just a few. World coin and currency collections include The Pinnacle Collection, The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection of World Gold Coins, The Kroisos Collection, The Alicia and Sidney Belzberg Collection, The Salton Collection, The Wa She Wong Collection, and The Thos. H. Law Collection. 

The company is headquartered in Costa Mesa, California, with galleries in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Offices are also located in New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, Hong Kong, Paris and Vancouver. Stack’s Bowers Galleries hosts an annual Global Showcase in August featuring United States coins and currency, Ancient coins and World coins and currency in its Costa Mesa auction gallery. They are also the Official Auctioneer for several important numismatic events, including the New York International Numismatic Convention, the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Spring, Summer and Winter Expos, the Spring and Fall Hong Kong shows, and the Maastricht Paper Money Shows. 

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