Beware of Forgery: The proof of 25 Rubles 1802

By Dmitriy Litvak (IBNS LM-204)

During my research for the book regarding Russian Empire printing facility Expeditziya Zagotovlenija Gosudarstvennyh Bumag, (it was renamed in 1919 into Goznak) I found the article “Technological Expertise of assignation of 1769-1818” by Hermitage Museum expert Elena Mikolajchuk (Елена Анатольевна Миколайчук) published in 2015 at Scientific almanac "Photography. Image. The Document "One of the topics was dedicated to his examination of Essay of assignation of 25 rubles 1802 which was received in 2001 by Hermitage Purchasing Commission.

This is a quote from her article: "In 2001, apparently, for the 200th anniversary of the issue of 1802-1803, the Hermitage Purchasing Commission received an essay of assignat of 25 rubles 1802."

Unfortunately, at that time the scan was not made, and we have only its photocopy (Pic. #1).

Picture #1. Essay of assignation 25 Rubles 1802

. Courtesy of Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

After exam it was discovered:

•    The appearance of the subject being examined allowed to attribute it to the issue of 1802-1803. Assignation did not have a number, thus claimed for one of the trial or essay printed before the mass production. The paper is a thin, light grayish-blue hue. The paper is flat on the thru light view. With visual appearance of watermarks and printing was made with black ink. All inscriptions [text] on watermarks, as well as printing fully comply with the orders mentioned in the decree for the manufacture of assignations of this issue. The paper does not have any stains or contaminants, i.e. there are no traces of use. The paper is cast on a mesh of linen weaving, as well as the samples from the Hermitage Museum.


    The composition of the paper is a rag hemp fiber with the addition of approximately 15% deciduous wood sulfite pulp.[2] The fibers of the deciduous wood pulp in the morphological structure have some similarity with the lubing fibers, which include hemp fibers, but it contains elements of a non-fibrous structure, which cannot be disposed of when cooking pulp. For example, such elements are vessels. The test of examined paper revealed an aspen vessel. Some elements of the non-fibrous structure of hardwood have also been identified.

    The established fiber composition already gives an answer to the question of the authenticity of tested note. The wood pulp was started to use for paper production only since the second half of the 19th century and cannot be in any way in the composition of paper issued [approximately, around] 1802.

    The pulp of "1802-1803" issue contains 2.5 times more silk fibers than the second issue, started in 1787. Thus, it can be concluded that the decree on increasing the content of silk fibers has been implemented. There are no silk fibers discovered in the pulp structure in the subject being examined.

    Large differences were observed in the application of the watermark. The technology of that time involved embroidery of a watermark pattern with wire on a tidal mesh. The watermark appeared on paper as a result of the lower density of fiber deposition in the places where the embroidery was located. This effect presented on all assignations of the issue 1802-1803 from the Hermitage collection. In contrary, on the subject being examined the watermark was applied to the front side of the paper. Such a “watermark” is artificial, and in certain actions it can disappear, unlike a real watermark.

   The short fibers of thin, brown color wool artificially applied to the front surface were discovered. These fibers are not a part of a pulp, as well as not some wool hairs that could transferred to paper from the drying cloth. They were glued to the surface of the paper by the starch glue.

   At that time the technology of using the dye in the production of the currency in Russian Empire considered for the coloring of the pulp. This is clearly seen on the contrasting blue and red dyes which were used to produce 5 and 10 Rubles. In contrary, on the subject being examined, there were superficially applied a layer of blue color dye in the form of sprayed small drops on both sides.

   The subject being examined is not complying by sizes [dimensions] defined by the decree on the production of "1802-1803" issue. Also, some other differences were discovered between the subject being examined and specimens from Hermitage Museum.

Those, it was established that the subject being examined, which was presented to the Purchasing, is a forgery. The cancellation of this purchase allowed Hermitage to save tens of thousands of dollars.

Picture #2. Essay of assignation 25 Rubles 1802. Courtesy of ZNAK AUCTION, St. Petersburg, Russia

As you can see from his article – after the thoughtful examination, the team of Hermitage experts verified that the “the subject being examined” is a forgery. In my archive there is a scan of a similar banknote [item], which I found in 2008 on the website, where this banknote is designated as real.
There are two more similar items known in the Russian-speaking community.

The first one located in Museum of Goznak. Second one was sold at Znak Auction #19 “Undevicesima” Lot# 376 (Picture #2)

After the publication of the article of the Hermitage expert who took part in the exam, I am asking all fellow collectors to be aware of this forgery.


1. Миколайчук E. А. Технологическая экспертиза русских ассигнаций выпуска 1769–1818 годов// Научный альманах «Фотография. Изображение. Документ». ISSN: 2221-1764. Выпуск 5. 2015 год. Страницы 61-67 //;



© 2021 Dmitriy Litvak