Wallets in the near future may go out of use – there will simply be nothing to put in them. And not because we suddenly become poorer, but because money in its usual form may cease to exist. In the digital world of online payments, we may be one of the last generations to see “live” money – coins and banknotes. The history of money, like a mirror, reflects our history. And the Bank of Russia will help us to follow the evolution of this unique invention of mankind.
If we brush aside all the emotions associated with them and focus only on their appearance, then we will find that money is a kind of cultural accumulator. Artistically, they are often examples of original graphic art.
In Rus’, the first coins of their own minting – golden coins and pieces of silver – appear at the turn of the 10th-11th centuries during the reign of Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavich. They began to be minted shortly after the adoption of Christianity. Therefore, the image of Jesus Christ and the prince with a cross was applied to the coins, and around them there were inscriptions: “Jesus Christ”, “Vladimir on the table” or “Vladimir, and behold his gold”.
Deposits where precious metals were mined had not yet been discovered. Therefore, money was made from foreign coins. They were melted down or minted. The coin was pulled into a wire, chopped into small pieces, flattened and minted new coins.
It so happened historically that for a long time the ruble was only a counting unit, and coins of small denominations were minted for circulation. They resembled fish scales in shape, so they were called “scales”. They were mainly made of silver, less often – of copper.
A penny from Grozny’s mother is a decent amount
We all know what a penny is, but do you know that this currency was introduced by the mother of Ivan the Terrible, Grand Duchess Elena Glinskaya? The history of the penny began during the monetary reform, from 1535. Then it was only a counting unit – a hundredth of the ruble – and it had not yet been issued in the form of a coin. And when it appeared, the plot on it did not change for about two centuries: for almost 200 years it depicted a rider with a spear in his hand (then he was called “rider”).
Large monetary units (rule, half a half, half a half) and medium ones (hryvnia – 10 kopecks – and altyn – 3 kopecks) existed only as counting concepts, coins of such denominations were not in use. Yes, and a penny in those days was considered a decent amount and too “large” to pay for small purchases.
“Solnechnik” from Peter I
In 1701, in Moscow, Peter I opened the Kadashevsky mint for the production of gold chervonets, round silver coins and old-style wire silver coins.
In March 1719, Peter I made a decision: “… It is indispensable to transfer money from Moscow to St. Petersburg in the future in 1720.” But the establishment of the Mint was delayed, and in 1721 a new Decree followed: “And in order to make it more profitable in money business, make a gold coin in St. Petersburg in the Fortress.”
The first coins in the St. Petersburg court were minted in April 1724. Initially, the plant was located in the Trubetskoy bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress, from the middle of the 18th century – in the Naryshkin bastion.
Golden chests are not our thing
Until the 18th century, our country did not have its own gold mining. Gold coins, of which there were very few, were minted from a limited amount of foreign gold that entered Russian territories in the course of trade and exchange. In addition, for centuries, the population has become accustomed to valuing everything in silver coins.
In 1745, they discovered gold in the Urals, opened several mines for the extraction of gold ore, and were able to establish refining at the St. Petersburg Mint (separation of pure gold from ore masses). The Ural mines became the object of close attention of the government, more than nine thousand peasants were attributed to them.
The issue of a gold coin from metal of its own production begins only during the reign of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna.
“Forge swords into plowshares”
There was a very interesting episode in the history of the Russian Empire when the biblical expression “Forge swords into plowshares” became a reality. This phrase implied that there would come a time when people would forge weapons into tools and instead of war they would be engaged in peaceful affairs. During the reign of Elizabeth Petrovna, when there was a difficult war with the King of Prussia, Frederick II, who then had the best army in Europe, battles devoured money even faster than soldiers’ lives.
It was then that for the first time the Russian authorities even thought about introducing paper money, but still did not dare to take such a radical step. But in 1760, the proposal of Count Pyotr Shuvalov, head of the Russian artillery, was approved, “to convert excess guns into money.” First of all, captured Prussian cannons were allowed to be converted, since artillery pieces and most of the small coins were then made from the same material – copper.
The copper coin was the main means of circulation and payments within the country before the issue of paper money. Researcher I.G. Spassky noted: “Some peasants died without holding a ruble note with a royal portrait in their hands, and heard about gold only in songs and in fairy tales.”