Flag of Russian America Company

ALASKA, Russian-American Company,
Ca. 1816-32 "Walrus-Sealskin" Issues



           Next Country>              

Aleksandr Andreevich BARANOV
1st Gov, Ch Mgr
  Russian-American Co.

Grigorii Ivanovich
Pioneer of RAC,
Co- Precursor Co.

Innokentii  [Ioann
Bishop of RA Colony
Metropolitan Moscow

Nikolai Petrovich REZANOV
Full Chamberlain,
 Plenipotentiary RAC

RUSSIAN-AMERICAN COMPANY "Seal-Walrus Skin" banknotes, 1816-32 Issues

 Pоссийская Империя

Established 1721-1917; Printer: Imperial Printing Works, St. Petersburg

  Russian-American Company

Founded 8.7.1799

Local Emergency Currency Issues

P.UNL  50 Kopek 1816 Ussuri Boards 6.6.2002
Lot 1146  Lyn Knight Currency Auctions
Alaska RussianAmerican Co  P.UNL  10 Rubles ND(1847-52)
P.UNL, K.53.1*   10 Kopeks ND

No. 25008, Mäkitie Collection

This is the most common denomination.
P.UNL, K.53.2  25 Kopeks ND
ex.Agathon Fabergé

This note to be auctioned by Hellman Auctions Ltd.
March 3rd 2007


Alaska, Russian-American Co 25 Kopeks ND(1816-52)
P.UNL, K.53.2*  25 Kopeks ND
Image Courtesy: R.M .Smythe & Co,
The above note sold for $7,187
at Memphis,TN  June 2003
Image Courtesy:  R.M .Smythe & Co,
The above note sold for $7,187
 at Memphis,TN  June 2003 
P.UNL, K.53.2  25 Kopeks ND
Image Courtesy: A. Denissov
From a Private Collection
Image Courtesy: A. Denissov
From a Private Collection
P.UNL, K.53.2  25 Kopeks ND(1816-32)
Unauthorized Reproduction of
A. Denissov Note above
Unauthorized Reproduction of
A. Denissov Note above
P.UNL K.53.4*  1 Ruble ND
Russian State Historical Museum
Alaska,Russian-American Co P.UNL  1 Ruble  Ca.1847-52
P.UNL, K.53.4*   1 Ruble ND

ex. Fred Howard Collection
P.UNL K53.5*  5 Rubles ND
 Russian State Historical Museum
P.UNL K53.6*  10 Rubles ND
80x57mm, Russian State Historical Museum
Alaska-Russian American Co P.UNL  10 Rubles ND Ca.1847-52
P.UNL, K.53.6*   10 Rubles ND

Alaska Russian American Co P.UNL 10 Rubles ND(184752)
P.UNL, K.53.6*   10 Rubles ND
P.UNL, K53.7* 25 Roubles ND(1820-60s)
No.1060 ex. Ted Uhl Collection
Sold for $192,000 at 2021 FUN HA Auction

Next Country>

RAC Site,
Sitka 1805

Signing the Treaty of
Cessation, 30.3.1867

Sealskin Drying Station

A Short History of the Russian-American Company

Russian Czar Paul I signed a decree providing a initial 20 year charter for the Russian-American Company (RAC). It
was founded on July 8, 1799 at Irkutsk, Siberia and capitalized with 724,000 Rubles divided   in 724 shares.Because
of the success of a precursor company established by G.I.Shelikhov and I.L.Golikov, the royal family had high
confidence in the venture and invested their personal assets in shares of RAC. They were said to have donated
their dividends to charity. Their participation had the effect of ensuring responsive  
government support  whenever possible.

RAC was given a monopoly to handle all of Russia's trade in its American colony. It used natives instead
of Russians for hunting and trapping in order to minimize the possibility of conflict with other nations
active in the Americas. RAC's first governor of Russian America and chief manager was Aleksandr Andreevich
Baranov (b.1746-d.1819).  Baranov had outstanding credentials for such a position. He was a manager and trader  
in Irkutsk, Siberia for 10 years and was elected  a member of the Free Economic Society in 1787. In 1790 Baranov
became the chief manager of the precursor Shelikhov-Golikov company. He managed this company until Shelikhov's
death in 1795 and continued operating the venture with Shelikhov's son-in-law N.P.Rezanov. It was amalgamated
and re-chartered as the Russian American Company.

Baranov was under the control and an employee of the Russian government, although he was given a great deal of
independence. He sometimes thought that his total control of the colony was absolute, although at times he had
hoped for more help from the government. Life in early Russian America was extremely difficult for Baranov.

He established the Russian American capital initially at Kodiak and moved it to Sitka in 1808 where there was an
abundance of sea otters. With rapidly accelerating trade in furs the share price climbed from 1000 Rubles to 3727
Rubles in the first year alone. Baranov served as Governor of the RAC for the longest period (1799-1818). 

RAC banknotes have been called "walrus or sealskin money" as some were printed on walrus skins, although
most issues are found on parchment,  issued from about 1816 until 1832. These tokens were issued at Baranov
suggestion, "in order to facilitate settling accounts with the hunters, the board of directors sent the colonies
parchment tokens {marki} with the governments permission. They were to take the place of money and were
distinguished in color and shape according to their value-1, 5, 10 or 25 paper rubles, and 10, 25, or 50  kopeks.
Baranov was ordered to pay the salary of each employee in the colonies with these tokens. Goods and supplies in
the companies stores were to be sold in exchange for the tokens, with certain restrictions on alcoholic beverages
(the sale of which was rationed). On payday, when the tokens were distributed, company stores
were to return the tokens they had received during that period. Forgers of the tokens were to be treated as

During this period 7 denominations have been reported: 10, 25 and 50 Kopeks; 1, 5, 10 and 25 Rubles. Initially made
from waterproof walrus skin bags which were used to ship otter skins, later issues were reportedly made from
parchment. The notes, known as "Kozhanye", circuwhich is just north of present daylated as far south as Fort Ross,
San Francisco. 

Baranov retired in 11.1.1818 having served as Chief of RAC for 19 years. He planned to return to Russia but he died
while crossing the Indian Ocean during the return sea voyage. L.A. Hagemeister(1818), S.I.Ianovskii(1818-1820),
M.I.Murav'ev(1820-25), P.E.Chistiakov(1825-30),  Baron Ferdinand Petrovich von Wrangel(1830-35),
I.A.Kupreanov(1835-40), A.K.Etholen(1840-45), M.D.Teben'kov(1845-50), N.I.Rosenberg(1850--53),
A.I.Rudakov(1853-54), S.V.Voevodskii(1854-59), I.V.Furuhjelm(1859-63), Prince Dmitrii P. Maksutov
(2.12.1863-18.10.1867) were subsequent governors of RAC. The fur trade declined by the 1860's
and the Russian-American Company ceased to exist in 1867 when Alexander II sold Alaska to the United States
for 7 million dollars (14 million rubles) or about 2 cents per acre.

A 1981 census compiled by the late world paper money dealer, Ted Uhl, identified 53 pieces known to have
survived. A recent census indicates between 150 and 200 pieces remain. In 1868 all outstanding notes were
exchanged for State Currency. The 5, 10 and 25 Rubles notes are the most rare with just one or two pieces known
of each.  All  "walrus skin/sealskin" notes are extremely rare and most recently a high grade note sold for $44,062.50
(including buyers commission) in Stack's Bowers Galleries - March 2015 Baltimore, USA Auction, lot# 2001.

Russia decided to sell Alaska to the United States and the purchase was concluded on October 18, 1867.
A Treasury Warrant, shown below,  for $7.2 Million Dollars was signed on March 30, 1867.

(1) P.A. Tikhmenev:  A History of the Russian American Company, Vol. 1, St. Petersburg, 1861
K.T. Khlebnikov: Baranov, Chief Manager of the Russian Colonies in America, 1832
Hector Chevigny: Russian America, The Great Alaskan Venture 1741-1867, Viking Press ,New York 1965
Russian History in Coins, S. Melnikova, Moscow 1994
Russia + America = 200 years, Bicentenary of the Russian-American Company 1799-1999", Moscow 1999

Historical Non-banknote Photo Credits: Alaska Library


The untold story of the RAC: The Hudson Bay Company 2.0
by Dmitriy Litvak



Our sincere thanks to Dr. Ilkka Mäkitie for background information and images.
Our sincere thanks to Dmitriy Litvak for the Warrant image.


* Kardakoff, N., "Katalog der Geldscheine von Russland und der Baltischen Staaten 1769-1950."  Berlin, 1953

The Russian-American Company
A Russian-American Company "Sealskin" Note
University of Alaska Press University of Alaska Press
Gallery Logo The Russian-American Company
Explore North, Russian-American Co. in Hawaii Explore North, Russian-American Co. in Hawaii
Fort Ross
Sea Otter
Library of Congress Library of Congress-RAC
Russian-American Company flag Russian-American Company Flag