Gold Chervonets

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The chervonets (proper plural: chervontsy) was an early modern type of Russian gold coin that was originally a moniker used to refer to any gold coin of local or foreign make that was used as de facto currency in early Czarist Russia. Much of the gold currency of the early Russian eras were actually consignments from other areas of Europe (Florence, Venice) bearing other denominations which were simply adopted for their own use. Later on, the production of their own type of gold coins, of which there were many. Various gold coins of many names and differing denominations existed, although their use as general currency was not yet adopted fully by the whole of the Russian territories. Usually made from special consignments and minted outside of the Russian border and simply shipped after completion, these coins were mainly used as tokens and awards, but not always as currency. This condition of ‘borrowed currency’ predominated Russian coinage until the latter part of the 1600s.

By 1701, the first Russian chervonets or ugorski were minted, although the name itself had already been in use to refer to the gold coins used by Russian prior to the minting of the official ones. Due to the fact that the term chervonets were used to refer to gold coins such as the ducat and the sequin, it eventually copied the mass and alloy of those gold coins and adopted it for its own. The gold chervonets minted in 1701 weighed in at 3.47 grams and was made from .986 fine (22 karat) gold. Due to the resulting popularity of the chervonets it took on many names, among them: tchervonets, chevervontsy, and czerwony – the latter being a syllabic play on the sound of ‘czar’ and ‘money’.[1] By 1707, the chervonets continuously underwent minting, until the introduction of the gold ruble or rouble of Peter the Great began to affect the earlier coin’s popularity. It remained in circulation alongside the second gold coinage for a time, until it was eventually displaced and its production abolished in 1757.

The use of the chervonets as a term for currency did not stop with its displacement over the ruble, but rather, it became re-adopted into the newer currency scheme and given an equivalent value in rubles, thus retaining, in some ways, its presence and its name. Further along the road of Russian gold coinage, the eventual discovery of the Ural Mines allowed the ruling classes more access to gold than previously, and so the height of gold coin making took a sharp turn for the best. By the 1760s, Russia was at the height of its gold coin production, and the chervonets remained in circulation under a different guise, with the original name. Coins from this period display very fine detail and highly artistic finishes that make them high valuable to both collectors and bullion investors, although the former usually hoard them like dragons much to the dismay of the latter.

After the eventual fall of the Czarist rule, the gold chervonets continued to be minted, albeit in lesser quantities by both the early and the later Soviet Union. These usually imitated the size and gold content of the Czarist chervonets although it did away with the aristocratic symbolism in favor of ones that empowered the working class. Just like the Czarist chervontsy, it has face values of 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, and 100 rubles / chervonets.[2] The end of the chervonets came about in the monetary reform of 1947 which abolished the old currencies of Russia in favor of a more standardized monetary system. This did not last long however, as the chervonets was quickly revived for its express use as specialty bullion coins. To this day, a number of remarkably artistic and amazingly made bullion chervonets are available, with new mintages being made yearly.[3]

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