GB-London, Morton & Eden

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08-06-2011 – 09-06-2011

Auktionen C49 und C50

Orders awarded to the man who sold Alaska to United States sold

June 23, 2011 – Orders awarded by Czar Alexander II to the diplomat who negotiated the deal for the United States to buy Alaska from Russia and his son sold for GBP 187,680 (Rub 8.5m, USD 307,791), in a sale by specialist auctioneers Morton & Eden in London on Friday June 10 (C50), 2011. The purchase of what eventually became America’s 49th State occurred in 1867 following an all-night session of negotiation between US Secretary of State William H. Seward and Edouard de Stoeckl (1804-1892), Russia’s Minister to the United States.
America paid USD 7.2 million dollars for what was originally called the District of Alaska, an area twice the size of Texas. Critics called the purchase “Seward’s Folly” and the land “Seward’s Icebox”, but the discovery in due course of gold, copper and oil proved it to have been a good investment.

Baron de Stoeckl’s honours from a relieved Czar Alexander II, in financially difficult times, were considerable. The most valuable today were sets of insignia for the Order of the White Eagle, dated 1869, and the Order of St Vladimir, Second Class, which each sold for GBP 66,000 (USD 108,239, Rub 2,997,760). A First Class Grand Cross set of insignia of the Order of St Anne was estimated at GBP 10,000-15,000 but sold for GBP 25,200 (USD 41,327, Rub 1,144,600).
Edouard de Stoeckl was born in Constantinople and became a Russian diplomat, serving as Chargé d’Affaires in Washington following the death of the Ambassador Baron Alexander de Bodisco in 1854. In 1857, he was named Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States and, like his predecessor, de Bodisco, he married an American girl, Eliza Howard. The couple enjoyed a very active social life, with Eliza becoming the toast of the Imperial Court during a visit to Russia in 1860. Well-rewarded by Alexander II, both financially and with the honours in the sale, Baron de Stoeckl retired to Paris with his family in 1869.
Edouard’s son Alexander (‘Sasha’) de Stoeckl (1862-1926) was named after Alexander II, his godfather. Able in later life to recall attending Lincoln’s funeral, Alexander was educated mainly in Paris and joined the Diplomatic Corps on leaving school. He served at the Russian Embassy in Paris, where he served as Equerry to Grand Duke Michael and later accompanied the Grand Duke on his return to St Petersburg to attend his father’s funeral in 1909.

Lot 202: Drachm, Aitna, Sicila, 476-470 BC.

In Morton & Eden’s auction of Ancient, British, Islamic and World Coins on June 9 (C49), a unique, small silver drachm dating from when the city of Katana (modern Catania) in eastern Sicily was occupied by the Syracusans sold for GBP 84,000 (USD 137,760), more than double the pre-sale estimate. The Aitna drachm, weighing just over 4 grams and 16mm in diameter, depicted on its obverse a naked youth on horseback, precisely copying the design of such coins at Syracuse, but its reverse introduced a new type showing Zeus Aitnaios, the patron god of Mount Etna, enthroned, holding a thunderbolt and sceptre surmounted by an eagle. It dated from the 15-year period between 475 and 460 BC when Katana’s indigenous population had been expelled and the city renamed Aitna because of its close proximity to Mount Etna.

For the full-length story about the gripping historical background of the Alaska trade read this.

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