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ALASKA, Russian-American Company, Ca. 1816-32

     

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Pioneers of Russian America

Aleksandr Andreevich Baranov
First Governor and Chief Mgr
  Russian-American Co.

Grigorii Ivanovich Shelikhov

Early Pioneer of RAC
Co-founder of Precursor Co.

Innokentii [Ioann Veniaminov]
Bishop of RAC Colony,
Metropolitan of Moscow

Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov
Full Chamberlain and
 Plenipotentiary of the RAC

Printer: Imperial Printing Works, St. Petersburg

RAC_PUNL_Siberia_50_Kopek_1816_Ussuri_Boards_Lot_1146_Lyn_Knoight.jpg
P.UNL  50 Kopek 1816 Ussuri Boards
6.6.2002 Lot 1146  Lyn Knight Currency Auctions
Alaska RussianAmerican Co  P.UNL  10 Rubles ND(1847-52)
P.UNL, K.53.1*   10 Kopeks ND

No. 25008, Mäkitie Collection
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This is the most common denomination.
AkaP.UNLK.53.225KopeksNDex.AgathonFabergé.JPG
P.UNL, K.53.2 25 Kopeks ND
ex.Agathon Fabergé

This note to be auctioned by
Hellman Auctions Ltd.
March 3rd 2007
AkaP.UNLK.53.225KopeksNDex.AgathonFabergér.JPG
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Alaska, Russian-American Co 25 Kopeks ND(1816-52)
P.UNL, K.53.2*  25 Kopeks ND
Image Courtesy:
R.M .Smythe & Co,
The above note sold for $7,187
at Memphis,TN  June 2003  
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Image Courtesy:  R.M .Smythe & Co,
The above note sold for $7,187
 at Memphis,TN  June 2003 
Aka_PUNL_25_Rubles_17501.bmp
P.UNL, K.53.2  25 Rubles ND
Image Courtesy: A. Denissov
From a Private Collection
Aka_PUNL_25_Rubles_17501_r.bmp
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Image Courtesy: A. Denissov
From a Private Collection
Aka_RAC_PUNL_K53.4_1_Ruble_ND.jpg
P.UNL K.53.4*  1 Ruble ND
Russian State Historical Museum
68x47mm 
Alaska,Russian-American Co P.UNL  1 Ruble  Ca.1847-52
P.UNL, K.53.4*   1 Ruble ND

ex. Fred Howard Collection
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Aka_RAC_PUNL_K53.5_5_Rubles_ND.jpg
P.UNL K53.5*  5 Rubles ND
 Russian State Historical Museum
71x52mm 
Aka_RAC_PUNL_K53.6_10_Rubles_ND.jpg
P.UNL K53.6*  10 Rubles ND
80x57mm, Russian State Historical Museum
Aka_RAC_PUNL_K53.6_10_Rubles_ND_r.jpg
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Alaska-Russian American Co P.UNL  10 Rubles ND Ca.1847-52
P.UNL, K.53.6*   10 Rubles ND

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AkaRussianAmericanCoPUNL10RublesND1847523435r.jpg
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Alaska Russian American Co P.UNL 10 Rubles ND(184752)
P.UNL, K.53.6*   10 Rubles ND
Enlarge   Supersize
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Aka_RAC_PUNL_K53.7_25_Rubles_ND.jpg
P.UNL K53.7*  25 Rubles ND
ex. Ted Uhl Collection
Aka_RAC_PUNL_K53.7_25_Rubles_ND_r.jpg
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Greyscale image
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RAC Site, Sitka 1805

 


Signing the Treaty of
 Cessation, 30.3.1867


RAC Sealskin Drying Station

 




A Short History of the Russian-American Company

Russian Czar Paul I signed a decree providing a initial 20 year charter for the Russian-American
 Company (RAC). It was founded on July 8, 1799 at Irkutsk, Siberia and capitalized with 724,000 Rubles
divided in 724 shares.  Because of the success of a precursor company established by G.I.Shelikhov
and I.L.Golikov, the royal family had high confidence in the venture and invested their personal
assets in shares of RAC. They were said to have donated their dividends to charity. Their
participation had the effect of ensuring responsive  
government support whenever possible.

RAC was given a monopoly to handle all of Russia's trade in its American colony. It used natives instead
of Russians for hunting and trapping in order to minimize the possibility of conflict with other nations
active in the Americas. RAC's first governor of Russian America and chief manager was
Aleksandr Andreevich Baranov (b.1746-d.1819).  Baranov had outstanding credentials for such a position. 
He was a manager and trader in Irkutsk, Siberia for 10 years and was elected  a member of the Free
Economic Society in 1787. In 1790 Baranov became the chief manager of the precursor Shelikhov-Golikov
company. He managed this company until Shelikhov's  death in 1795 and continued operating the
venture with Shelikhov's son-in-law N.P.Rezanov. It was amalgamated and re-chartered as the
Russian American Company.
Baranov was under the control and an employee of the Russian government, although he was
given a great deal of independence. He sometimes thought that his total control of the colony
was absolute, although at times he had hoped for more help from the government. 
Life in early Russian America was extremely difficult for Baranov.

He established the Russian American capital initially at Kodiak and moved it to Sitka in 1808 where there
was an abundance of sea otters. With rapidly accelerating trade in furs the share price climbed from
1000 Rubles to 3727 Rubles in the first year alone. Baranov served as Governor of the RAC for the longest
 period (1799-1818). 

RAC banknotes have been called "walrus or sealskin money" as some were printed on walrus skins, although
most issues are found on parchment,  issued from about 1816 until 1832. These tokens were issued at Baranov
suggestion, "in order to facilitate settling accounts with the hunters, the board of directors sent the colonies
parchment tokens{marki} with the governments permission. They were to take the place of money and were
distinguished in color and shape according to their value-1, 5, 10 or 25 paper rubles, and 10, 25, or 50
 kopeks. Baranov was ordered to pay the salary of each employee in the colonies with these tokens. 
Goods and supplies in the companies stores were to be sold in exchange for the tokens, with certain
restrictions on alcoholic beverages (the sale of which was rationed) and luxury articles.
On payday, when the tokens were distributed, company stores were to return the tokens they had
received during that period. Forgers of the tokens were to be treated as criminals."(1) 

During this period 7 denominations have been reported: 10, 25 and 50 Kopeks; 1, 5, 10 and 25 Rubles.
Initially made from waterproof walrus skin bags which were used to ship otter skins, later issues were
reportedly made from parchment. The notes, known as "Kozhanye", circulated as far south as Fort Ross,
which is just north of present day San Francisco. 

Baranov retired in 11.1.1818 having served as Chief of RAC for 19 years. He planned to return to Russia
but he died while crossing the Indian Ocean during the return sea voyage. L.A. Hagemeister(1818), 
S.I.Ianovskii(1818-1820), M.I.Murav'ev(1820-25), P.E.Chistiakov(1825-30),  Baron Ferdinand Petrovich von
Wrangel(1830-35), I.A.Kupreanov(1835-40), A.K.Etholen(1840-45), M.D.Teben'kov(1845-50),
N.I.Rosenberg(1850--53), A.I.Rudakov(1853-54), S.V.Voevodskii(1854-59), I.V.Furuhjelm(1859-63),
Prince Dmitrii P. Maksutov(2.12.1863-18.10.1867) were subsequent chief managers and governors of RAC.
The fur trade declined by the 1860's and the Russian-American Company ceased to exist in 1867
when Alexander II sold Alaska to the United States for 7 million dollars (14 million rubles)
or about 2 cents per acre.

A 1981 census compiled by World Paper Money dealer, Ted Uhl, identified 53 pieces known to have
survived. A recent census indicates between 150 and 200 pieces remain. In 1868 all outstanding notes
were exchanged for State Currency. The 5, 10 and 25 Rubles notes are the most rare with just one or two pieces
known of each.  All  "walrus skin/sealskin" notes are extremely rare and frequently sell in the $5,000 to
$20,000 range when they come on the market. This is more than some people pay for things like Fort
Worth LASIK
and even some vehicles...but a true collector knows the value of notes, and are willing to
pay what they have to in order to obtain certain rare specimens.

References: (1) P.A. Tikhmenev:  A History of the Russian American Company, Vol. 1, St. Petersburg,
1861 K.T. Khlebnikov: Baranov, Chief Manager of the Russian Colonies in America, 1832
Hector Chevigny: Russian America, The Great Alaskan Venture 1741-1867, Viking Press ,New York 1965
Russian History in Coins, S. Melnikova, Moscow 1994
Russia + America = 200 years, Bicentenary of the Russian-American Company 1799-1999", Moscow 1999

Photo Credits: Alaska Library

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Our sincere thanks to Dr. Ilkka Mäkitie for providing background information and banknote images used in this section.


 

CATALOG REFERENCES

* Kardakoff, N., "Katalog der Geldscheine von Russland und der Baltischen Staaten 1769-1950."  Berlin, 1953

ALASKA LINKS
The Russian-American Company
A Russian-American Company "Sealskin" Note
University of Alaska Press University of Alaska Press
Gallery Logo The Russian-American Company
Explore North, Russian-American Co. in Hawaii Explore North, Russian-American Co. in Hawaii
Fort Ross
Sea Otter
Library of Congress Library of Congress-RAC
Russian-American Company flag Russian-American Company Flag

© Garry Saint, Esquire 1999-2013