Foundation of the Saint Petersburg Mint15.11.2019
The history of foundation of the Saint Petersburg Mint started with the decision of Peter the Great to move the capital from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.
On May 16, 1703, the Peter and Paul Fortress was founded in Rabbit Island and became the start of the new city.
In 1712, Saint Petersburg received the metropolitan functions. According to Peter’s idea, the new capital of the state was to become a modern city for its time, and that contemplated moving the major governmental institutions as well as coin minting to it.
Before the foundation of the mint in Saint Petersburg, coin minting was carried out at three enterprises in Moscow only.
One of significant motives that made Peter move coin minting into the new capital was his trip to Paris in 1717.
During the trip, Peter the Great visited the Paris mint where Duke d’Antene gave him a newly struck gold medal dedicated to Peter’s visit to the mint. Peter the Great was depicted on the obverse of the medal. The sovereign realized that if high-profile officials came to the Russian capital he would not be able to give a present like that, and that belittled the prestige of Russia.
In March 1719, he issued the first Decree, “… to move the mints from Moscow to Saint Petersburg in the next year of 720 by all means”.
However, the Mint establishment was delayed. It was necessary to order the equipment that arrived from Nuremberg in 1723 only.
The equipment was located in the yard of the Berg and Manufacture Collegium (the Collegium Mint); simultaneously, they started building coin production areas in Trubetskoy Bastion of the fortress. Peter also planned to build a mint in Naryshkin Bastion, but its construction was not accomplished at the time.
Coin minting started in 1724 only.
The first product of the Saint Petersburg Mint was a rouble called “solnechnik” (sun coin) – Peter the Great’s profile was depicted on the obverse and the sun in the center of the monogram of four “P” was on the reverse.
Unfortunately, Peter the Great could not be present at the coin production area opening. Peter became seriously ill in the autumn of 1724 and passed away in January 1725. One of the very first medals produced at the Mint was the funereal medal dedicated to the death of the sovereign.
The volumes of coin minting were not great during the first years. The mint had not had enough time to gain power after Peter’s death, and Catherine I who succeeded him on the throne had little interest in management affairs. Therefore, Duke Alexander Menshikov actually amassed all the power in the state for himself.
Paying a lot of attention to the Collegium Mint, Menshikov decided to “improve” coin production by decreasing the standard of the silver coins. The standard was gradually decreased from 64 to 42 in alloy with arsenicum.
The production of such coins of the 42nd standard was “alleviated” and brought a good income to Menshikov. However, the alloy was so unstable that it literally fell to pieces after a few days. The craftsmen refused to mint such coins.
Minting of such coins was only stopped after Menshikov was dismissed from service and charged with treason and stealing from the state treasury. A number of decrees about their withdrawal from circulation were issued.
After the death of Catherine I, Peter II, Peter the Great’s grandson, ascended the throne. The young emperor could not evaluate his grandfather’s reforms and according to the advice of his entourage decided to move to Moscow and take all the government institutions including the mints there.
However, the transfer of coin production from Saint Petersburg to Moscow brought only losses to the treasury.
Reconstruction of coin production in Saint Petersburg took place during the reign of Empress Anna Ioannovna. At the beginning of the 1730s, there was an attempt to eliminate the coinage disorder that pervaded the country.
Already since 1731, coins were minted from high-standard silver only. A medal called “For the arrangement of coin business” was dedicated to the event. According to the legend, “The coin value was restored in 1731”.
In 1742, during the reign of Peter the Great’s daughter Elizaveta Petrovna, there was another attempt to move the mint back to Moscow. It was reasoned with the expensiveness of the coin production in the capital and groundless state expenditures.
On June 25 1742, the Empress even wrote her consent “Let it be so” on the Senate’s report. However, already on July 20 she changed her mind and signed a decree “About the mint remaining in Saint Petersburg”.
Thus, the mint remained in Saint Petersburg and increased coin production considerably within the coming years.