Alaskan parchment scrip

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Russian-American Company parchment scrip (1 Ruble) Russian-American Co - 1 Ruble (7559).jpg
Russian-American Company parchment scrip (1 Ruble)

Alaskan parchment scrip was in circulation from 1816 to 1867, issued by the Russian-American Company (RAC) in the colony of Russian America. Also known as seal skin or walrus skin notes, this type of scrip was printed on parchment, and sometimes on walrus hide, in denominations of 10, 25, 50 kopecks and 1, 5, 10, and 25 rubles.

Russian-American Company company

The "Russian-American Company Under the Supreme Patronage of His Imperial Majesty" was a state-sponsored chartered company formed largely on the basis of the United American Company. The company was chartered by Tsar Paul I in the Ukase of 1799. Its mission was to establish new settlements in Russian America, conduct trade with natives, and carry out an expanded colonization program.

Russian America Russian colonial possessions in the Americas

Russian America was the name of the Russian colonial possessions in North America from 1733 to 1867. Its capital was Novo-Archangelsk, which is now Sitka, Alaska, USA. Settlements spanned parts of what are now the U.S. states of California, Alaska and two ports in Hawaii. Formal incorporation of the possessions by Russia did not take place until the Ukase of 1799 which established a monopoly for the Russian–American Company and also granted the Russian Orthodox Church certain rights in the new possessions. Many of its possessions were abandoned in the 19th century. In 1867, Russia sold its last remaining possessions to the United States of America for $7.2 million.


A scrip is any substitute for legal tender. It is often a form of credit. Scrips have been created for payment of employees under truck systems, and for use in local commerce at times when regular currency was unavailable, for example in remote coal towns, military bases, ships on long voyages, or occupied countries in wartime. Besides company scrip, other forms of scrip include land scrip, vouchers, token coins such as subway tokens, IOUs, arcade tokens and tickets, and points on some credit cards.


Russian-American Company currency

The Russian-American Company (RAC) (full name- "the Russian-American Company under the Protection of His Imperial Majesty") was chartered by Russian Tsar Paul I on 8 July 1799. [1] This 20-year charter granted the RAC an exclusive monopoly for any and all produce from (primarily the fur trade) [2] [1] [3] as well as the general administration of colonial Russian America. [3] Each of the five main districts (New Archangel, Kodiak, Unalaska, Ross, and Northern Islands) [4] housed a RAC store which only accepted company scrip [5] and charged a 35% markup on basic commodities. [6]

Paul I of Russia Emperor of Russia

Paul I reigned as Emperor of Russia between 1796 and 1801. Officially, he was the only son of Peter III and Catherine the Great, though Catherine hinted that he was fathered by her lover Sergei Saltykov, who also had Romanov blood, being a descendant of the first Romanov tsar's sister, Tatiana Feodorovna Romanova.

Charter grant of authority or rights

A charter is the grant of authority or rights, stating that the granter formally recognizes the prerogative of the recipient to exercise the rights specified. It is implicit that the granter retains superiority, and that the recipient admits a limited status within the relationship, and it is within that sense that charters were historically granted, and that sense is retained in modern usage of the term.

Fur trade worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur

The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of a world fur market in the early modern period, furs of boreal, polar and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valued. Historically the trade stimulated the exploration and colonization of Siberia, northern North America, and the South Shetland and South Sandwich Islands.

RAC employees and local native hunters were paid in company script [5] redeemable only at company stores. [5] [7] Though first made of thick card stock, this scrip was later made from parchment [8] and walrus hide. [5] [9] [10] [11]

Scrip Issues

Issuance records for RAC scrip [nb 1]
Issue Amount Material Denom
181612,000Card stock25 & 50K
1, 5, 10R
182230,000Card stock
182630,000Parchment10, 25, 50K
1, 5, 10R
One-issue only round 10 kopeck note. Russian-American Co - 10 Kopec (23421).jpg
One-issue only round 10 kopeck note.

In 1803 Alexander Andreyevich Baranov, one of the directors of the RAC, proposed the creation of a colonial currency for use in Russian America, to be printed on parchment for greater durability. [13] The first issue of currency (12,000 rubles) did not arrive until 1816, [13] and it was printed on a heavy card stock. [11] A second issue arrived in 1822 [5] printed on the same material. [14] Given the climate of Alaska and constantly being outdoors, the currency did not survive long in circulation. [11] Only four examples from the first two issues are known to exist: a 25 kopeck, 50 kopeck, and one ruble note from 1816 and a single one ruble note from 1822. [15]

Alexander Andreyevich Baranov trader and manager of trading posts in Russian America

Alexander Andreyevich Baranov, sometimes spelled Aleksandr or Alexandr and Baranof, was a Russian trader and merchant, who worked for some time in Siberia. He was recruited by the Shelikov Company for trading in Russian America, beginning in 1790 with a five-year contract as manager of the outpost. He continued to serve past the end date of his contract.

Ruble Currencies with "rouble"

The ruble or rouble is or was a currency unit of a number of countries in Eastern Europe closely associated with the economy of Russia. Originally, the ruble was the currency unit of Imperial Russia and then the Soviet Union, and it is currently the currency unit of Russia and Belarus. The Russian ruble is also used in two regions of Georgia, which are considered by Russia as partially recognised states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In the past, several other countries influenced by Russia and the Soviet Union had currency units that were also named rubles. One ruble is divided into 100 kopeks.

Constantly needing to replace damaged and worn notes, a third issue (on parchment) arrived in 1826 [16] with higher denomination notes on color-tinted parchment (e.g., blue 5 ruble notes and red 10 ruble notes). [17] Later issues (e.g., 1842, 1846, 1848) varied the ink overprint color for each denomination: 10 kopeck (brown), 25 kopeck (black), 50 kopeck (lilac), 1 ruble (green), 5 ruble (blue ink on blue-tinted parchment), 10 ruble (red ink on red-tinted parchment). [17] The issue of 1852 changed the color scheme of the ruble notes: black ink on light yellow (1 ruble), black ink on blue (5 ruble), and black ink on red (10 ruble). [18]

Lower denomination notes- 10, 25, and 50 kopeck notes were the same size (except for the one-issue round 10 kopeck note). In an attempt to help the largely illiterate native population of Russian America, these lower denomination notes were systematically altered: the 10 kopeck had two holes made, one in each of the upper corners, [10] the 25 kopeck had all four corners clipped, [10] and the 50 kopeck had the upper two corners clipped. [18] [19]


Ted Uhl, a collector and researcher of Alaskan parchment scrip, reported that 53 notes were known in 1982. [19] Zander's 1996 monograph published by The Russian Numismatic Society lists every reported note by denomination and serial number: 10 kopecks (22), 25 kopecks (18), 50 kopecks (10), one ruble (18), five rubles (3), 10 rubles (5), and 25 rubles (1) for a census total of 77. [20] [nb 2] It is uncertain whether an accurate census is currently maintained, but some estimates suggest between 100 and 150 notes are known. [21]

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  1. All information in the issuance table is found in Zander (1996). [12] Individual table references indicate additional reference sources for specific information.
  2. Zander further reports that of the 77 known examples, 35 reside in museum collections.


  1. 1 2 Wheeler, 1966, p. 492.
  2. Bickford, 2012.
  3. 1 2 Lightfoot, 2003, p. 16.
  4. Gibson, 1976, p. 177.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Andrews, 1916, p. 292.
  6. Zander, 1996, p. 5.
  7. Gibson, 1976, p. 180.
  8. Lightfoot, 2003, p. 21.
  9. The Numismatist, 1911, p. 139.
  10. 1 2 3 Uhl, p. 20.
  11. 1 2 3 Zander, 1996, p. 13.
  12. Zander, 1996, pp. 7–12.
  13. 1 2 Zander, 1996, p. 7.
  14. Zander, 1996, p. 8.
  15. Zander, 1996, pp. 78.
  16. Zander, 1996, p. 9.
  17. 1 2 Zander, 1996, p. 11.
  18. 1 2 Zander, 1996, p. 12.
  19. 1 2 Uhl, p. 21.
  20. Zander, 1996, pp. 2831 & 36.
  21. HCAA Currency Auction Catalog (Boston), 2010, p. 115.


Further reading