Flake coins have an amazing history. Researchers find it difficult to name the exact date of their introduction into circulation, but it is known for sure that their production ceased after the financial reform of Peter the Great in 1718. These coins got their name due to their appearance, it was believed that they look like fish scales.
For the manufacture of flakes, various metals were used. Most often it was silver. Copper was used much less frequently. It is assumed that gold may have been used as well. The weight of the coins was small - no more than one gram. At the same time, the flakes did not have a certain denomination, their value was determined by the total weight. When buying a product, the coins were simply weighed.
The process of making the scales was quite simple: the silver wire was cut into approximately equal pieces, then flattened. The name of the prince was most often minted on the obverse, and various drawings on the reverse. For example, images of a horseman with a spear, flowers or animals. The inscriptions were hard to read, the coins were of an irregular shape. But, this was their plus: each scale was unique, it was almost impossible to find two identical ones. They did not pay special attention to the shape of the coins, because their main advantage is the weight of the precious metal, not beauty.
Tsar Peter the First treated the scales with undisguised disdain, calling them "lice". By the way, thanks to the scales, another, rather common expression, "slobbering" money, has appeared. Commoners often used their own mouth as a wallet. It was not always convenient to carry money in this way, but it was reliable.
During the fragmentation of Russia, scales were minted in every principality. Numismatists call them "specific". For example, the coins of Pskov, Novgorod and the Ryazan principality were very different from others both in appearance and in weight. As the Russian principalities unite around Moscow, it becomes necessary to bring the scales to a single standard.
The monetary reform of Elena Glinskaya, the widow of the Grand Duchess of Moscow, mother of the future Tsar Ivan the Terrible, under whom Glinskaya was regent, was of great importance. The estates lost the right to mint their own coins and put them into circulation. A unified financial system of the Russian state was formed.
Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, experiencing an acute shortage of silver for minting coins, decided to use a trick: to mint copper scales, equating them in value to silver ones. But, copper scales, "equal" to silver, provoked indignation of the people, in 1862 a riot broke out in Moscow and the surrounding villages, which received the name "copper". The tsarist government had to withdraw copper from circulation.
Scales are often found by treasure hunters, because these coins were stamped in huge numbers. There are also such finds when the number of coins is measured in tens of thousands. A typical example is a treasure found in 1909 in Moscow on Ilyinka Street. Two jugs found in the ground were filled to the brim with scales from the era of the first Romanovs - Mikhail Fedorovich and Alexei Mikhailovich. The total number of flakes is 22, 000 pieces, and the weight is about 11 kilograms.
And already in our days on Prechistenka, during the improvement of the city, a figurine of a bone chess elephant was discovered, which turned out to be with a "surprise". The figurine was collapsible; 10 silver scales of the 16th century were hidden inside. Nine of them were minted in Moscow, and one in Tver. Probably, in this original way, the owner tried to preserve his savings.
Many numismatists put flake coins in their collections. They were produced in large quantities, therefore, the price for most of them does not exceed 100 rubles. But, in this case, we are talking about common types. The price of rare scales of specific principalities can reach fabulous sums. True, there is a high probability of a fake.
Recently, the denga of the Maloyaroslavets appanage principality, made in the 15th century, was put up for auction at one of the auctions. The starting price was already very high - 55, 000 rubles, but, as a result of the auction, it rose to 95, 000. It often happens that other coins of specific principalities reach a price of 70, 000 rubles or more.
Many famous collectors were engaged in collecting scales. One of them was the Russian chemist Pavel Vasilievich Zubov. His knowledge of chemistry helped him determine the composition and authenticity of coins. Often Zubov acquired ready-made collections and treasures. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Zubov wrote a will, according to which, after the death of the collector, the collection was to go to the Historical Museum and remain there not separate.
Almost all the silver for making coins had to be imported to Russia until the 18th century, when the country's first silver mine appeared in Nerchinsk. Here in 1704 a silver smelting plant was opened by the governor Ivan Vlasov.