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The E-Sylum: Volume 20, Number 13, March 26, 2017, Article 29

MONTGOMERY BLAIR RUSSIAN WIRE MONEY

In his numismatic diary last week, Tom Kays wrote:

Gene gave me to hold for Eric, the original container for a hoard of Russian Wire Money assembled long ago that Eric studied in his youth.

The 3 inch, hand folded envelope seems to be vellum rather than paper, with old quill and ink writing. The “paper” is without foxing and reads in accented English, “98 Old Russian Silver Monney’s of XVI & XVII Centuries.” Inside are smaller, folded envelope “tubes” of the same material reading: “25 Kopeika’s John’ I the Terrible,” “1 Denga & 15 Kopeika’s Bozys Hofunov,” in the fold, and “20 Kopeika’s of the ‘Zar Theodor.” It is a most curious old coin holder.

Gene Brandenburg is a coin dealer who for many years operated shops in and around Alexandria, VA. Eric Schena was a precocious young customer Gene took a liking to and hired to work in the store. Here's Eric's account. -Editor

Curious envelope that held an old hoard of Russian Wire Money

You bet I remember those Russian "wire" coins! I was part timing for Gene at the time at his shop on S. Union St. They came to Gene in 1993 wrapped in those little envelopes and I recorded them as coming out of the collection of Montgomery Blair, Lincoln's Postmaster General.

There were at least 50 coins in the group, all from the reigns of Ivan IV Vasilievich "the Terrible," his son Fyodor I Ivanovich, Boris Godunov, and Vasily IV Shuiski, along with a stray coin or two of Mikhail I and Peter I "the Great." At the time, I was actually studying Medieval Russian coins and was writing a thesis as part of a college independent study.

I bought 14 of the coins at the time and they remain part of the core of my medieval collection to this day. The neatest coin in the group is a dramatically double struck kopeck of Ivan as Tsar (Melnikova 22-26, Kleshchinov-Grishin 80). I have several hundred examples now, which also includes the earlier feudal pieces and also the coins of the Juchid Ulus (Golden Horde) and the later Giray khanate of Crimea. Attributing those coins was one of those singular numismatic events that really shaped my collecting and scholarship. That is a hell of a gift from one of my long time mentors.

As a postscript, I never got the thesis in any sort of shape to publish, though I did get an A for it (I still have it and used the coins I bought from that collection for illustrative purposes). There have been many more discoveries since then, plus Dzmitry Huletski has been doing yeoman's work publishing great catalogs in English and Russian on the topic, making a formerly daunting subject matter accessible.

Here are pictures of the Montgomery Blair Russian coins from my collection. The coins were in little packets contained in that big packet.

Montgomery Blair Russian Wire Money obverses

Montgomery Blair Russian Wire Money reverses

The coins are from left to right:

Row 1: Ivan IV as Great Prince (1533-1547)
Melnikova 9-12; KG 75
Melnikova 14-17; KG 76
Melnikova 13-16; KG 71

Row 2: Ivan IV as Tsar (1547-1584)
Melnikova 15-18; KG 57
Melnikova 16-19; KG 59
Melnikova 19-23; KG 77
Melnikova 22-26; KG 80
Melnikova 21-25; KG 79
Melnikova 35-27; KG 93

Row 3: Fyodor I (1584-1598)
Melnikova 1-1; KG 105
Melnikova 6-4; KG 123
Melnikova 5-2; KG 137

Row 4: Boris Godunov (1598-1605)
Melnikova 4-2; KG 173
Melnikova 6-1; KG 181

Montgomery Blair Russian Wire Money envelope2

Montgomery Blair Russian Wire Money envelope1

Thanks! What a great story. Perhaps a letter, diary or other source could be located someday to explain how Blair might have acquired the collection. Interesting. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
TOM KAYS' NUMISMATIC DIARY: MARCH 14, 2017 (www.coinbooks.org/v20/esylum_v20n12a22.html)

THE BOOK BAZARRE

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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