Soviet "Death Sentence" Coins

Date: 1920's
Soviet Union

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Item Description:

These 20 kopeck coins, dated 1923 to 1931, are among the last silver coins ever issued for general circulation by the Soviet Union. They earned the grisly nickname of "death sentence" coins due to executions ordered by Joseph Stalin that targeted Soviet workers in the financial sector, who had failed to take all silver coins out of circulation.

The historical documentation for these "death sentences" comes from letters written from Stalin to Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, one of his closest supporters. Due to silver shortages and economic turmoil, Stalin had ordered the confiscation of all silver coins in order to melt them down and issue base metal replacements. However, collection efforts did not go to plan as the Russian people continued to hoard these more valuable silver coins.

Clearly frustrated that the "results of the battle against the coin shortage [were] almost nonexistent," Stalin ordered a purge of the finance ministry and central bank, and to "definitely shoot two or three dozen wreckers from these apparaty, including several dozen common cashiers."

Despite Stalin's ruthless attempts to force the collection of these coins, many still survive to the present day. Now, anyone can own these amazing pieces of modern history!

Source: Kosheleva, L., et al. Stalin's Letters to Molotov, 1925-1936. Edited by Lars T. Lih et al., Yale University Press, 1995. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1bhkp8p. Accessed 23 July 2021.


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