In the area of world numismatics, most are familiar with the
Russian ruler Catherine the Great, whose portrait graces the obverse of many
Russian coins and medals. Stack’s Bowers Galleries has sold countless Catherine
the Great numismatic items, including three pieces that have sold for over
$100,000. But, did you know that Catherine the Great took the throne 259 years
Catherine the Great was born Sophie von Anhalt-Zerbst in
Poland in 1729 to a well-known family. At a young age, the Empress of Russia,
Elizabeth, invited Sophie to Russia as she searched for a bride for her nephew
Peter. Interestingly enough, Peter was also Sophie’s cousin on her mother’s
side of the family. Upon Sophie and Peter’s marriage, she changed her name to
an Orthodox Christian name – Catherine.
Their marriage was tumultuous. Peter was not the father of any of Catherine’s
four children. Once Peter took the throne, his subjects became discontented. On
July 9, 1762, Catherine and her lover, Gregory Orlov, rallied the army of Saint
Petersburg against her husband, Peter III, so that she could be the sole leader
of Russia. Peter was assassinated just eight days later. Catherine spent the
following 34 years in power. She died of a stroke in 1796 just before granting
the throne to her grandson, Alexander I.
If you have any coins or medals that depict Catherine the
Great, we would love to see them. Please reach out to us at [email protected] to show us
your collection. We are always willing to look at any coins or any collection.