Coronation Medal by Jeremy Bostwick – Senior Numismatist & Cataloger, Stack’s Bowers ……
Born in 1796 to Russian emperor Paul I and Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg, Nicholas had little chance of ever acceding to the imperial throne, as he was the third male child born to the royal couple.
Following Paul’s murder in 1801, the eldest son Alexander, who would rule for the first quarter of the 19th century, was crowned. For Russia, this was a rather tumultuous period that included the chaotic Napoleonic Wars as well as numerous conservative and reactionary policies by Alexander. Given the manner in which his father died (assassination by a band of dismissed officers), Alexander, along with his younger brothers Constantine and Nicholas, became concerned about suffering a similar fate. When Alexander died of typhus in late 1825, both Constantine, the heir presumptive (as Alexander had no legitimate sons), and Nicholas were wary of succeeding their elder brother.
However, when Constantine formerly refused his claim, Nicholas accepted the crown, swiftly quelling a revolt that threatened his new imperial position.
Now styled Nicholas I, the young emperor, having just turned 30 a few months prior, was formally crowned on September 3, 1826. The occasion was cause for much celebration, with numerous medals struck to commemorate the event. Among these pieces of exonumia, the rarest is undoubtedly an exceptional piece in Stack’s Bowers’ upcoming Official ANA World’s Fair of Money auction to be held August 16, 2019 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois. Issued in gold, silver, and bronze, the Stack’s Bowers specimen is presented in platinum, heretofore unlisted in the standard references and likely signifying its superlative status as a presentation example.
Designed by Vladimir Alexeev and Grigori Saburov, the Coronation Medal obverse features the bust of Nicholas with a slightly uplifted gaze evocative of his divine right. On the Coronation Medal reverse, the iconography magnifies the message, displaying his imperial crown set upon a column inscribed ЗАКОНЪ (law), while receiving rays emanating from the Eye of Providence—the all-seeing Eye of God. With this imagery, the monarchy is positioned squarely between both God and law, indicative of holy anointing for rule on earth. In platinum, this cataloger could locate just one other specimen, a vastly inferior piece displaying numerous contact marks and an edge bruise, that realized a hammer of £62,000 (over $92,000 at the time of the sale in March 2015).
Assuredly, the superior nature of our piece will attract even greater bidder interest for this exemplary coronation issue.
Despite the lofty ideals conveyed in this coronation medal, the reign of Nicholas I was fraught with problems, both foreign and domestic. Under him, Russia’s territorial expanse was at her greatest but strained through numerous wars and conflicts which culminated in defeat in the Crimea. At home, his stark autocratic tendencies hampered his ability to rule competently, as his inclination was to micromanage every facet of the empire so that his rule was not effective or efficient. Having caught a cold and rather predictably refusing medical treatment, Nicholas died at the relatively young age of 58 on March 2, 1855, about a year before Russia’s aforementioned defeat in the Crimea.
To view this lot, along with the rest of our impressive ANA auction, please visit the Stack’s Bowers website where you may register and participate in this upcoming sale.
Though the consignment windows for this auction and our August Hong Kong auction have passed, we are always seeking interesting and exceptional coins, medals, and pieces of paper money for our future sales, the next of which will be our Collectors Choice Online Auction in October and our Official Auction of the N.Y.I.N.C. in January 2020. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today at 800-458-4646 or by email at [email protected]. We will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.