The exhibition “A Princely Numismatist. Grand Prince George Mikhailovich Romanov. Fate and Legacy” of the International Numismatic Club Museum in Moscow displays unique exhibits from the collection of Grand Prince George Romanov.
The Grand Prince’s Impressive Collection
Grand Prince George Romanov’s coin collection from the 19th and 20th centuries is the starting point of such important scholarly works as the “Corpus of Russian Coins of the 18th–19th Centuries”. This work became sort of a periodic table in the world of numismatics and is still considered to be “the manual” for collectors and researchers of Russian coins. The book does not only describe the objects of the cultural heritage of numismatics, but also contributes to the profound study of interconnections, processes and facts that enable us to better understand Russian history. The “Corpus of Russian Coins of the 18th–19th Centuries” was not finished while the Grand Prince was alive – however, all catalogues of Russian coins published during the last 100 years are based on this work.
Nowadays, it is not possible to gather all objects of the collection since they have been scattered to the four winds before and after the collector’s death. A major part is housed in the Smithsonian Institution in the US, in the National Library in Paris and in the collections of museums and private persons in Russia and Europe.
Coins from Different Treasures
Visitors of the exhibition will see coins that have been discovered at different points in time. One of the highlights is a zlatnik coin – that is to say, a specimen of the first Russian gold coins. The piece was owned by Vladimir the Great, grand prince of Kiev; it was discovered in 1863 as part of the Kinburn treasure and acquired by Grand Prince George Romanov in 1885 – for 1,300 roubles (back then, this was a significant amount of money). In the 1920s the coin was kept in the Leningrad Mint, later it was owned by the Soviet Philatelic Association and was eventually presented as part of the collection of the State Historical Museum in Moscow in 1930.
In 1898, a treasure was found in the Assumption Cathedral in the Kiev Monastery of the Caves and the Hermitage bought some of the discovered coins and medals. One year later, the director of the Hermitage received a letter from Grand Prince George Romanov. He wrote in the letter that the emperor had given him five of the duplicates from the treasure found in Kiev as a present. Some of the coins from this treasure can also be admired in the exhibition.
In addition to objects that have already been displayed on other occasions, the visitors can also see coins and medals that have never been exhibited before. In particular, there are coins from a suitcase found by accident in the vaults of the Petrograd Extraordinary Commission. Today, the contents of the suitcase are kept in the Hermitage Museum’s collection.
A Grand Prince with an Addiction to Collecting Coins
Moreover, the exhibition features coins from the collection of the Samara Museum for Historical and Regional Studies P.V. Alabin. These coins are probably the beginning of the grand prince’s numismatic journey. He became addicted to collecting coins at the age of 14. He started to buy coins at the Armenian bazaar in Tiflis and it did not take long for his collection to comprise about 700 copper coins.
The International Numismatic Club Museum does not only display coins but also the promissory notes the grand duke gave to the coins’ owners. Until he reached the age of 18, he did not have the financial means necessary in order to enrich his collection with especially precious coins. He could only afford copper coins and had to acquire gold and silver coins in exchange for promissory notes. When he came of age, he settled them.
More than just Coins
The exhibition also shows other original pieces: personal objects and furniture, photographs, documents, books, plans and sketches that tell of the life of George Romanov and convey the atmosphere and the collecting culture of the late 19th and early 20th century.
The exhibition “A Princely Numismatist. Grand Prince George Mikhailovich Romanov. Fate and Legacy” can be visited from 2 October 2019 to 31 March 2020 in the International Numismatic Club Museum (24 Bolshoy Afanasyevsky lane, Moscow). You can find additional information on the museum’s official website.
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On 31 January 2019, auction house Künker in Osnabrück sold a platinum set from 1839 that once belonged to the grand prince.
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