Catherine the Great: The Empress's Signature Coin

Pen-pal to philosophes, patron of the arts, champion of women, genius of foreign policy, taker of rich and powerful lovers: Catherine II of Russia was a formidable presence, decades if not centuries ahead of her time, and worthy of her superlative sobriquet ”the Great.“

Born Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg in 1729, a German-speaking Prussian princess, Catherine took the Russian throne following a coup d'état in which her husband, the hapless Tsar Peter III, was assassinated. Her reign saw the revitalization of Russia, which grew in both territorial size and military might. Her cultural stewardship, prowess for foreign affairs, and expansion of the Empire drew wide praise from contemporaries and historians alike.

In matters of amour, Catherine lived like a king. She took many lovers during her life, most notably Count Orlov and Prince Potemkin, and she was particularly drawn to younger men, especially as she aged. A lover of the arts, Catherine had a collection of erotic paintings and sculpture in her private chambers. Ugly rumors concerning her erotic proclivities circulated throughout her lifetime and afterward, the product of disgruntled males and defeated rivals seeking to impugn her memory. The most enduring of these, concerning horseplay and her death, is utter nonsense—she died in 1796 of a stroke.

Certificate of Authenticity

Weighing in at a massive 51 grams on average, these enormous 5-kopek copper coins are almost twice as heavy as U.S. silver dollars of the same period. The elaborate monogram on the obverse, E T, stands for Ekaterina Tsarina; the reverse shows the Romanov two-headed eagle. Catherine’s influence was so great that her extra-large design was copied by the King of England; the British ”cartwheel“ twopence, a similarly large coin, was issued in 1797, a year after Catherine’s death. Her coins, outsized as they are, are a fitting monument to her memory.-

The coin is packaged loose, for easy handling, in a ring box featuring Catherine's insignia on the top.

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