Russian Wire Money

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Matthew Kruse, Feb 7, 2021.

  1. Matthew Kruse

    Matthew Kruse Young Numismatist


    I am not sure if this belongs under World Coins or Ancient Coins but I know some of you guys will know a at least a little bit about "Russian Wire Money." I am considering buying a small lot of these for my collection because they aren't too expensive and they look great, but I just have a few questions before I do so.

    - What is a good price for one of the coins?
    - How do you identify them? There are so many different ones and they are so small.
    - Are some more valuable than others and why?

    Any info you know about these would be greatly appreciated.

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  3. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    The most abundant are Peter the Great (Peter I) and Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV). These are usually very cheap ($1 to $50 at auction). From Ivan onwards, the horseman obverse and legend reverse ('Tsar and Grand Prince [insert name and patronymic here] of all Russia') became the standard and they are incredibly common.

    Ivan IV, 1547-1584
    Moscow. 9x11.5mm, 0.28g. TSAR / I KNYAZ / VELIKIY / IVAN (Tsar and Grand Prince Ivan) (Grishin #57). Note the name Ivan ('IBAH') at the bottom. He ruled from 1535-1547 as Grand Prince of Moscow, and from 1547-1584 as the first Tsar of Russia, so coins after 1547 include the word Tsar (ЦРЬ) and not just Grand Prince (КНЯЗЬ ВЕЛИКИЙ).

    Peter I, 1699
    Moscow. 11mm, 0.28g. TSAR I VE/LIKIY KNY[A/Z] PYOTR [A/LEXEYEVICH/ VSEYA RU/SI] (Tsar and Grand Prince Peter Alexeyevich of All Russia) (Grishin #1625). Again, the name Peter ('ПEMP') is in the last line on this coin.

    The cheapest of any type will be poorly centred with weak strikes - some can be almost blank. You can pay as little as a dollar (at auction, so plus fees and shipping, making the cheapest about $2.50 shipped). The least I have paid is $5 shipped, but only because I've never wanted to go for a poor quality common coin when you can get a good example for $5 shipped.

    You want to aim for a horseman with a head, a horse with a head, a mintmark, and the part of the legend on the reverse that names the tsar. The more of these you have, the more it is worth. The quality of the strike is also important.

    Short-lived tsars will be more expensive, but not always - it depends how many they struck and if they were good quality. False Dmitry I is a lot cheaper and more abundant than False Dmitry II, and yet they both reigned for under a year and False Dmitry II used the same dies as False Dmitry I. (You can only tell by weight - False Dmitry II must be over 0.7g).

    Before Ivan IV, there was more variety, but Russia hadn't yet formed so the politics and geography are rather confusing. Some of these can go for thousands. They are derived from Golden Horde dangs, so some have blundered Arabic legends.

    Vasiliy II 'the Blind' Denga, 1433
    Moscow. Silver. 0.6g, Point Rim. Rider with a falcon. Imitation of an Arabic inscription (Metz 11).

    Identification is tricky because the obverses are very similar and the reverses have much the same legends but don't fit on the flan - so you have to work with part legends, missing mintmarks and horsemen and horses missing heads. But you can identify most of them.

    This site is invaluable for identification, with precise drawings of the obverse and reverse dies (and you need to be precise!). Your browser will translate the website, but being familiar with the 33 letters of the Cyrillic alphabet (and a few archaic ones like omega Ѡ and yus Ѧ) might help decipher the coins Still, if all you can do is recognise fragments of the phrases Tsar and Grand Prince (ЦРЬ I BEЛИKI KHSЬ, ‘Tsar i veliki knyaz’) and of All Russia (BCEѦ PУСI, ‘Vseya Rusi’) you have it nailed.

    That website also has a rarity index that might indicate which ones are more valuable - where 1 is very rare and 9 is common. (If no number is given I believe this means it is rated 10, the most abundant).

    For older (and much more expensive) Russian coins, Russian coins 1353-1533 is a good reference:

    I wrote about some of them here:

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 7, 2021
  4. Mammothtooth

    Mammothtooth Stand up Philosopher, Vodka Taster

    I won’t even drink Russian Vodka, I would rather be sober.
    Actually never heard of wire money..
    Now Grey Goose that’s another story.
  5. Evan Saltis

    Evan Saltis College Dorm Collector Supporter

    If you get ahold of some I could try and help with ID.
    Russian has had quite a number of language reforms over the centuries.
  6. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Wire Money


    RUSSIA Ivan IV The Terrible 1533-1584 AR Denga Moscow mint Horseman riding right brandishing sword - Inscription in lines G&K 59 Rare type

    RUSSIA Ivan IV The Terrible 1533-1584 AR Kopek Wire money Novogorod mint 1535-1538 Horseman riding right brandishing sword - Inscription G&K 75


    Peter the Great
    AR Kopek 1682-1725
    Wire Money
    Obv: Horse Rider
    Rev: Great Tsar Peter
    11.1mm 0.27g
    talerman, panzerman, Spaniard and 4 others like this.
  7. Evan Saltis

    Evan Saltis College Dorm Collector Supporter

    Very nice coin from Novgorod.
    panzerman, +VGO.DVCKS and Alegandron like this.
  8. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    I think it was around $8:
  9. Bradley Trotter

    Bradley Trotter Supporter! Supporter

    Russian Wire Money can be a pain to identify, yet they are also extremely abundant. A local coin dealer I know here in Tennessee sells individual examples for about $5.00 each that are already attributed.

    Edit: Here's a Numista link that may be of use to you @Matthew Kruse.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2021
  10. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Thank you.
    Evan Saltis likes this.
  11. Matthew Kruse

    Matthew Kruse Young Numismatist

    Thank you for the helpful information. Could you please explain what factors go into the value of these coins? Condition, mintage, etc. Also, where can you buy them for $1? That sounds like a steal to me!
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  12. scottishmoney

    scottishmoney Unwell Unknown Unmembered Supporter

    Some of the later examples ie Petr I are quite common and can be found for as little as a $1 each. I bought a bunch of them in an auction several years ago and got them even cheaper by the several dozen.
    Matthew Kruse likes this.
  13. Southernman189

    Southernman189 Well-Known Member

    another reason to "buy American"
  14. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    Great post - thank you!
    John Conduitt likes this.
  15. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    While they are way too modern to it my usual collecting habits, I do like the wire money. I only have common ones but there are many early ones that are quite expensive. Of my low end coins, I am particularly fond of this one:
    Alexei Mikhailovich AE kopeck 1654-1662 - a doublestruck mess - I always wanted one if these coins even though most are beyond ugly.
    The Tsar figured the people would value his coins without silver if he told them to. He was wrong so we had the Copper Riot, 25 July 1662.
    Does anyone else here have one?
  16. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    I received these as part of my "secret Saturnalia" gift this past year.

    A wonderful grouping featuring: Ivan "The Terrible" 1547-1584, Feodor I 1584-1598, Michael I 1613-1645, Peter The Great 1682-1725.

    Such a nice set to own....

  17. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    There are many different types. Coins of Ivan (the Terrible) to Peter the Great are quite cheap and can be bought for a few dollars a piece.

    Coins of the earlier princes can be very expensive, costing even as much as several thousand dollars.

    Quality is everything: if the name of the prince is legible that usually commands a premium. Also the coin should be what Russian collectors call "v svone", meaning "in the sound", i.e. sounding like metal when dropped on a table.

    To identify them, you need good literature (Russkie Monety 1353-1533) by D.V. Guletzky is the best) and the ability to read Russian.

    Here are two coins from my collection. Both are from the Grand Duke of Moscow Dmitry Ivanovich (Donskoy). Since Donskoy is a national hero, his coins are extremely sought after by Russian collectors:

    Screenshot 2021-02-08 at 19.42.44.png Screenshot 2021-02-08 at 19.42.59.png
    talerman, +VGO.DVCKS, I_v_a_n and 6 others like this.
  18. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Thank you. Since I do not know the history as well as I wished, I STILL would buy your first coin for the CHICKEN! :)
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  19. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    This coin was struck after the victory over the Poles in 1613

    AV Kopeck ND 11mm./ 0.50g.
    Mikhail Feodorovich Romanov 1613-45 590c4d570866eddd0467e2ec204cc38f.jpg
    talerman, +VGO.DVCKS, Finn235 and 4 others like this.
  20. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Wow ... this is worthy of the Ermitage collection.

    However, the dating doesn't seem to be right. The legend reads:
    (Zar)' i veli(ki) knyas' I(va)n' Ale(kse)vich (Bseya Rusi)
    Tsar and grand prince Ivan Alexevich of all Russia.

    This would date the coin to the reign of Ivan V (1682-1696).

    There is a second reason why this coin can't be early: The early gold kopecks were minted with regular dies for silver kopecks. These are not coins stricto sensu, but awards. In any case, your coin was minted with a special obverse die, which fits the flan, while the reverse die doesn't: The dotted rim, the whole style of the image and the missing weapon never appear on regular silver kopecks.

    The name kopeck derives from the spear (kop'ye) that the rider wields. On the half-kopecks the rider wields a saber. Strangely, on your coin the rider appears to be unarmed. I have never seen that before.

    If the above coin was minted in 1613 or shortly thereafter it would look like this:

    Here is a gold copeck of Ivan V. But note that this is a "Novodel", i.e. a restrike/collectors issue of the 19th (?) century:

    Last edited: Feb 9, 2021
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  21. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    The chicken is a rooster and no thanks:)
    These are among the finest examples and would cost considerably more than a chicken.
    One final piece of advice: If you buy kopecks/dengas of the post-1533 era, be extremely picky when it comes to condition and appearance. These coins are (with some exceptions) so abundant that you will hardly ever be able to resell a poor or average example. The coin should be on an usually large flan with cear legends and (where applicable) a clear mint mark.
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