The Family Ruble of 1836

One of the great coin rarities from the reign of Tsar Nicholas I is a commemorative piece struck to celebrate the tenth anniversary of his reign, commonly (as well as erroneously) referred to as the “Family Ruble”. Displaying a robust and soldierly portrait of the Tsar on the obverse the reverse is graced not with icons of the vast Russian empire but with individual portraits of the Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna and the royal couples’ seven children. With a value of 1.5 Rubles or 10 Polish Zlotych these pieces were not only a large denomination but were physically some of the largest coins produced in Russia during this period and thus could accommodate such a vast and ambitious design. The concept of including members of the royal household on coinage was nothing new of course; Roman coins featured wives, mothers, fathers, brothers and offspring on them. To see the most direct model for the Family Ruble one must look to the Bavarian “Blessing from Heaven” Taler of 1835. It was this coin, which was sent by the Russian ambassador Prince Grigory Ivanovich Gagarin from Munich to Finance Minister Kankarin, that inspired the design and issue of these pieces. Engraved by the talented Pavel Petrovich Utkin the design for the coin went through a few modifications before the final and most prevalent design was agreed upon. Chief among these changes was the removal of the frames around the children’s portraits and a redesign of the Tsarina’s portrait as the Tsar found it made her look too old and contemptuous. After the design had been finalized a striking of 100 pieces was ordered, of which only 50 were actually produced; the dies had cracked and thus a third set of dies was prepared. It is from this set, recognizable by the abbreviation of the engraver’s name to just his initials and without the die cracks seen on later strikings, which the coin we will be offering in our August ANA sale was struck. Now pleasantly toned with beautiful cobalt highlights, this piece is an absolute treasure and would grace any collection. Look for this and other numismatic rarities from around the world at the Stack’s Bowers & Ponterio auction at the August 2012 ANA Convention in Philadelphia.

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