General View of Fort Ft Ross Before 1840 Russian Colony in Northern California
General View of Fort Ross – 19th Century Artist’s Rendering

Russia’s colonization of North America began in 1732 and lasted until 1867. It began when the Imperial Russian Empire laid claim to northern West Coast territories. Like the western Europeans, the Russians also sponsored expeditions in search of natural resources, as well as lay claim to land for Russia and her trading activities.

In pursuit of these efforts, the Russians established support settlements and defensive outposts all along northwest lands that bordered the Pacific Ocean.

Map of Russian America circa 1867
Map of Russian America circa 1867

Near Bodega Bay in Northern California is one such outpost: Fort Ross. The Russians maintained it until 1841, when they abandoned the region.

For the Russians, their colonial aspirations and activities were largely unprofitable. Russia offered sale of their Alaskan territory to the United States in 1857.

After delays due to the Civil War, the U.S. finally purchased the territory in October of 1867.

It was this financial transaction which finally ended Russia’s presence in North America altogether.

Due to the primitive nature of the refining processes employed at the Kolyvan mint during that era, copper coinage originating from Russia’s Kolyvan Mint (KM)had traces of gold and silver.

Because of this, they were struck with planchets of a more diminutive size than equivalents minted at Ekaterinburg.

Pictured is a 5 Kopek specimen minted at Russia’s Kolyvan mint. The specimen is an example of the actual 5 Kopek variety that has been unearthed at Fort Ross, in Northern California.

The specimen has enjoyed very little wear over its long life, and has retained smoothness and nice planchet coloring.

Fort Ross 1770 Russia Siberian Kolyvan Mint 5 Kopeks Kopecks
Fort Ross 1770 Russia Siberian Kolyvan Mint 5 Kopeks Kopecks

Aaron Packard [End Mark]


Notes and Sources

  1. The Context of the Cemetery at Fort Ross: Multiple Lines of Evidence, Multiple Research Questions, Lynne Goldstein and Robert A. Brinkmann, Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly, Volume 39, Number 4
  2. The Library of Congress Digital Archives

Aaron Packard

The author has over 30 years experience in North American numismatics. He is the author of numerous articles about exonumia, including those about tokens, scrip, and the public who used them. He is a member of the ANA, VNA, ACC, C4, CWTS, TAMS, MD-TAMS, AVA, NSCA, and NumisSociety.

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