As part of the firm’s annual New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC) sale, Stack’s Bowers Galleries is excited to present a monumental offering of elite Russian coins. Built over the course of many decades and never displayed publicly, the Rothschild-Piatigorsky Collection was the combined efforts of the 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, 10 and 5 Rubles from the brief reign of Peter III, a 5 Rubles of Paul, and two tantalizing denominations from Nicholas II—the 37-1/2 Rubles and the Imperial (a 10 Rubles Pattern).
Of particular note, the 25 Rubles of Alexander II (of which just 100 examples were struck) may attract the most excitement and fanfare. Issued to celebrate the 30th birthday of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, it is a type missing from even the most advanced cabinets dedicated to Russian coins. Augmenting this specimen’s allure is its personal history, as the original bill of sale, made out to “Madame Piatigorski” on 22 April 1939 refers to the coin’s great rarity, 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.
Look for this virtually unrivaled specimen, along with the rest of this fabled collection, in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries World & Ancient Coin auction in January 2024, and open for bidding online this December!
To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.
We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for future auctions, and are currently accepting consignments for our spring 2024 Hong Kong auction and our August 2024 Global Showcase auction. Additionally, we are accepting consignments for our Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auctions, the next of which will be in February. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.