1825 Russian rarity quadruples estimate as most valuable world coin sold by U.S. auction house

Described by auctioneers as “one of the most elusive and desirable coins in the entirety of the Russian series,” an 1825 silver ruble pattern coin – one of only three known plain-edged examples – quadrupled its estimate at a Hong Kong auction this month.

The coin, which was struck at the St. Petersburg Mint and whose obverse features the would-be Russian emperor Constantine, brought $2.64 million US (about $3.24 million Cdn.) at an April 6 Stack’s Bowers sale. It’s the most valuable world coin ever sold by a U.S.-based auction house.

“This is one of the most elusive and desirable coins in Russian numismatics,” said Matt Orsini, the director of world and ancient numismatics with Stack’s, whose headquarters are in New York.

Certified as Proof-62 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. (NGC), the coin was the top seller among 162 lots of the Pinnacle Collection. It shows the bust of Constantine, who was expected to become emperor after his brother’s death in 1825 but refused to take the throne.

“Born as the middle male child to Emperor Paul I and Sophie Dorothea of Wurttemberg, Constantine never saw himself as actually becoming emperor, fearful of receiving the same fate of his father, who was assassinated in 1801,” reads the description for Lot 50103. “Following the death of his elder brother, Alexander I, in 1825, and the lack of any legitimate sons produced by Alexander, the crown seemingly fell to Constantine, as he was heir presumptive. Constantine, however, quickly abandoned any such claim, wishing instead for the heavy burden (and possibly target) of the crown to fall to his younger brother, Nicholas.”

The Russian rarity is the sixth NGC-certified coin to realize more than $1 million US at auction in 2021.

Only eight Constantine ruble patterns, including three held by museums in Russia and the United States, are known to exist. Adding to its prestige, the recently sold example is one of only three with a plain edge, and NGC has pedigreed it to the collections of L.K. Joseph and F.F. von Richter.

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