July 15, 2011

Russia, 1830

Letter from an English traveler (~five weeks in Russia: Sept. -Oct.) provides revelations about Russian platinum circa 1830, from first-hand knowledge (after visiting the St. Petersburg Mint.)

Although possibly augmented later with British-based revisions (and minor errors, the 12-Rouble was not the first Platinum issue) Charles Boileau Elliot nevertheless provides key details about the Russian Platinum market 1828-1830.

1) The SPb Mint was then directed & staffed by British nationals ("the hated foreigner.")
2) In 1827, Platinum coinage was initially directed by a 'Mr. Johnson' (connected with Dr. Wollaston) - almost certainly someone associated with the Johnson and Matthey firm.
3) Between 1828 and 1830, the Platinum Price collapsed and the coins were not circulating.
4) A large importation from South America was responsible for a Platinum market collapse.
5) Because of depreciation, the so-called 'Imperial' (12 Rouble coin) was not released as planned.

At issue, the 6-Rouble Coin was worth ~£ 1. The 12-Rouble should be worth £ 2.; the equivalent twelve Roubles in Silver (£ 1.95)

Curious local opinion/ govt. propaganda about Russian Platinum's sudden depreciation is especially noteworthy. The purported cause/blame was "a large importation of platina from South America." Since British merchants effectively controlled both Colombian export and Russian trade, they would be the culprits. It also not surprising the author (a British national) might hear this story/rumor and repeat without a hint of irony or question.  At whatever pittance the local Mint was paying, plus expenses, would a Cartegena/St. Peterburg carry-trade ever have been worthwhile?

The Hated Foreigner must be blamed. Of course, the exploding Russian platina yield (dwarfing all exports from Colombia) is never questioned - so, forget the simplest law of Supply/Demand!

A more persuasive case and damaging likelihood for the depression of 'official price' was contraband export at radically cheap discount - theft from the Mint, and smuggling.

September, 1830: This valuation illustrates a shadow 'Platinum Cours' against Paper and Silver (and perhaps Gold) money.  The Paper Rouble declared £ 0.0458, the 12-Rouble 'Imperial' was worth 22.91 руб. Acc. ; the 6-Rouble therefore 11.45 руб. Acc.

Assuming an internal Rouble par (Ag/Pt 1: 3.8 Acc.) :

September, 1830: 12 Roubles Pt (1.333 Ozt.) = 12. руб Ag
September, 1830: 12 Roubles Pt (1.333 Ozt.) = 45.6 руб Acc.

At nominal Rouble rates, the Platinum Rouble had fallen -50% in value.

Presumed intrinsic value, at 1: 3.8 Acc. rate:

September, 1830: 12 Roubles Pt (£ Rate) = 22.91. руб Acc.
September, 1830: 12 Roubles Pt (£ Rate) = 6.03 руб Ag.

But at nominal Sterling rates, the Platinum Rouble had fallen -46.15% in value.  In London, the actual discount against Silver Rouble Coin was -26.15%, intrinsic.

September, 1830: 12 Roubles Ag (nominal par) =  £ 1.95

September, 1830: 12 руб Ag (6.944 Ozt., London Mkt £0.3250) = £ 2.257
September, 1830: 12 Roubles Pt (SPb: 1.333 Ozt.) = ~ £ 1.05 
September, 1830: 12 Roubles Pt (London: £1.25/Ozt) = £ 1.67

September, 1830: 1 Troy Ounce Platinum (SPb: Coin, intrinsic) ~ £ 0.7806 (USD$ 3.70) = 17.03 руб Banco (4.48 - 4.77 руб Silver, by exchange) or 4.68 руб Silver.

The Ukase regarding the 12-Rouble coin appeared several days (8/31/1830) before Elliott arrived (9/2/1830) in SPb:  

9.708333333 Zolotnik ~ 41.414 g; 1.3315 Ozt; 639.12 Grains

Described in the late 19th C., the 12-Rouble Coin weighs 1.32916667 Ozt (1.11366 English Troy Grains light) perhaps error in Russian Weight calculation?

Citation: American Journal of Numismatics..., Vols. 13-14 Oct 1878 pp.29-30

October 1830: Platina & Platinum was freely exported, without special tariff.

Citation: Aperçu sur les monnaies russes et sur les monnaies étrangères..., Vol. 1 ; Stanislaw Chaudoir (1836)

The 3-Rouble Platinum coin was struck by imperial ukase of 24 April 1828; the 6-Rouble coin (4 zolotniks 82 dolia = 20.704 grams) was authorized on 30 November 1829 and 12-Rouble coin by an ukase of 12 September 1830.

The currencies of Russia were confusing to tourists and even foreign merchants, and most cambists failed to cite the course with agio for different Russian money-forms current. In addition to the common estimation of the metallic Rouble in 100 copper Kopeck (1 Silver Rouble) there were Paper Roubles (banco) and 'Effective Roubles' (another Paper currency, so-called "Silver Roubles"; nominally but rarely at par with true coin Silver) all trading against each other in the money markets. Sources indicate the Spanish Dollar (the basis for & typically at par with the US Dollar) circulated widely in Southern Russia during the first half of the 19th Century, no surprise that generally traded at a strong premium.

The information came from a merchant apparently resident in Russia. Mentioning only to the Paper value of 3- and 6-Rouble coins, but also referencing 1830's Gold yield, the St. Petersburg letters were written in Summer of 1830. In 1830, the 6-Rouble coin might have had a calculated 'Silver value' of nearly 23 Roubles yet still witnessed discounting on the Russian money market.

In 1830, at the average exchange of 3.80 руб Banco = 1 Silver Rouble the coins were worth  11.394 руб and 22.79 руб, respectively.

At the avg 1830 Paper Rouble on London (£ ) @ "28 Shillings/oz. troy"the St. Petersburg price was not much above the London Price. British refiners had 30 years to grasp the technological hurdles, but the Russian simply hired Johnson, in 1827/8.

It is worth noting that compared to previous years, the 1830 Paris Price and 1830 London Price were 50% and 1/3 lower, respectively. To this British agent in Russia, the Platinum Price Crash was apparently unknown in the (late?) Summer of 1830; if correct, his price estimation seems rather high, but it may be a retail price.

1830: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (semi-mfg, StPb) = 31.75 руб Paper (USD$ 6.79)
c.1829: 1 Troy Ounce Platinum (semi-mfg, London) = £ 1.25 (USD$ 6.08)

The money-market appears to have more quickly realized price events and discounted Platinum coins accordingly; the 3-Rouble was worth ~9.29 руб at market , an approximate -18.6% discount below the 1830 price.

Fall, 1830: The dramatic global depreciation in the price of Platinum was well-known at this time; prices in St. Petersburg were no exception.

The Imperiale is the 12-Rouble piece (638 Grains of Pure Pt) was nominally worth 12 Silver Roubles (metallic) or £ 2.0 Sterling by Elliot's estimation for the current Pound-Rouble exchange. The depreciated value for the 'Imperial' (12 Rouble Coin) matter of factly states intrinsic value on the market at St. Petersburgh. 

The Russians were calculating Platinum at 15,000 Roubles per poud.

1830: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (est. ore value) = 21.88 руб Paper (USD$ 4.38)
1830: 1 Troy Oz. Gold (Fine) = 94.941 руб Paper
1830: 1 Troy Oz. Silver (Fine) = 6.221 руб Paper 

1830 Platina Yield (at Mint Price, Retail) 5.8623 руб Ag/Ozt
55,298 Ozt : 1,232,603  руб Acc. = 324,175. руб A

.... @ £ 0.1646 руб Ag: £ 53,354 ; @ £ 0.0441 руб Acc. : £ 54,352

1830: 1 Troy Oz. platina  = £ 0.9648 - £ 0.9829

Citation: Narrative of a Visit to the Courts of Russia and Sweden: In the Year 1830 & 1831, Vol. 2;  Charles Colville Frankland (1832)



1831: Platinum Yield, 1824 - 1830

The September Ukase authorizing the 12-Rouble Coin was made known in Europe in America by late December 1830.

Jan. 1, 1831 issue of The Atheneum (London):

St. Petersburg news from 7 May 1831 reported in Munich 2 weeks later, records the largest Pt mass yet discovered.

In this year {2nd Sememster 1830} from State Councilor Demidoff's mines in Nischnetagilsk comes a curiosity which is so far unique in its kind, namely a solid platina nugget 20 Funts 2.5 Zolotnik weight {= 263.665 Ozt.; 8.20 Kg.} The largest platina previously found (donated and preserved in the Museum of the Imperial Academy of Mines) is only 10 Funts, 54 Zolotnik weight {= 139.06 Ozt.; 4.33 Kg.} The Platinum-Coin has received such a rapid circulation in the interior of the Empire that almost the greater part of the found platina is marked to coin and unhindered sale finds all theoretical objections notwithstanding.

As recorded by von Humboldt: 

Prof. Carl Heinrich Hagen of Universität Königsberg, estimating the Platinum 3-Rouble Coin value in 1830:

Citation: Jahrbuecher der Geschichte und Staatskunst, Part 1 (1830) p.36

Gold Yield, 1824 - 1848:

Gold Yield:

Citation: The Encyclopaedia Britannica: Or, Dictionary of Arts..., Vol. 7; Vol. 15 (1842) p.254

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