Novodels or Die Trials? 



The following lines offer some preliminary thoughts on a phenomenon that has caught my eye and seems frequent enough to warrant the careful study I am now giving it - namely the quite remarkable prevalence of die clashes among Soviet minor coins, from 10 kopecks up, starting with the first issue in 1921 and going right down to 1957, when there was a hiatus before the new coinage came in in 1961.

  This is a tremendous span over which to tolerate what seems to be evidence of unusual inefficiency or indifference in minting standards. We know of course of the badly deteriorated dies when the Leningrad Mint evacuated its operations to Krasokamsk, near Perm, early in World War II. That is readily explicable: the Soviets at Krasnokamsk simply had to make do with old dies, having no materials for replacement. But to put up with sloppy workmanship for over 35 peacetime years is another matter. And there is another sign of carelessness during most of those years - the continuing confusion between the very similar obverse dies of the three and the 20 kopeck pieces.    

The Leningrad Mint seems only rarely to have taken clashed dies out of service before their time. The normal procedure was to get fall service out of them (the Soviet specialist Moshnyagin has done die linkage studies showing that dies in general were kept in use for a long time, sometimes being touched up to add to their life). As a result, one sees coins in choice shape from relatively new dies with well-defined clash marks and equally sharply struck coins in AU or EF shape from worn dies with die-clash marks much weakened.

The conclusion has to be that the Mint was governed by a Stakha-novite ethic, emphasizing quantity over quality.

On some issues, such as the 1921-1927 silver coins, of which re-strikes are believed to have been made in 1927-1930 for sale abroad in sets, the absence of clash marks on an uncirculated piece may serve at least as a hint that the coin in question was one of the restrikes.

Over time I am hoping to observe enough of these 1921-1957 minors to be able to draw better based and more precise conclusions. I should welcome word from anyone who may share the interest.

JRNS 54, Spring 1994