The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Platinum 12 rubles of Tsar Nicholas I
Russia, AD 1830
A 19th-century coin in an unusual metal
During the early eighteenth century, platinum was discovered in the Ural Mountains in Russia. Tsar Nicholas I (reigned 1825-55) introduced the use of the metal for higher denomination coins: 3, 6 and 12 rubles. This particular coin is worth 12 rubles and bears the heraldic device of the Romanov Tsars, the double-headed eagle.
When they were first issued in 1829, the platinum coins appeared to be popular and were endearingly nicknamed ‘the little grey coins'. However, although platinum was a precious metal it was worth only a third of the price of gold. This sometimes led to platinum coins being plated with a thin layer of gold and passed off as gold coins. Over the years the metal became less popular with the Russian population, for the white metal was easily confused with silver. The coin was eventually withdrawn in 1845.
J. Cribb, B. Cook and I. Carradice, The coin atlas (London and Sydney, Macdonald Illustrated, 1990)