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January 16 saw a specialised sale of Russian material in New York. It was held by the troika (what else?) of Baldwin, Markov and M&M Numismatics. The offering of 259 lots from the earliest times – Vladimir the Great (980-1015) to the murder of the Romanovs. Vladimir’s coins, derived from Byzantine models, are exceedingly rare but it is easy to imagine that they are eagerly sought-after; he was sort of the founding father of Rus. I can only remember two of these coins in the last decade. This one, estimated at $10,000 made just one bid more (+$500) than the last, which is about £6400.

What is interesting about this catalogue is that again we have an indication of prices over a long period of Russian history.

Crossword addicts will be pleased with the word Jefimok. This refers to just any old European thaler, which has the countermark of the Russian eagle and the date 1655 in a square punch. These coins do turn up regularly and it seems that no two are exactly alike. There were three in this sale. They were estimated at $1250, $750 and $2500 respectively. Why the difference is opaque to all but Russians. They made $1900 (£1160), $1150 (£700) and $4000 (£2440) respectively, so experts seem to know the difference.

If you are a tax collector and there is a cold climate it must be sensible to tax beards; modern thinking would question the privilege of the ladies but never mind. Round about 1705 this actually happened and copper tokens in satisfaction of this tax were issued. Yes, they are rare and, it seems, so are the people who want one, but there was one in this sale. Estimated at $400, it made $575 (£350).