This week I came across a short item about the Russian Beard tax tokens. These were mentioned once in an E-Sylum article on Ken Bressett's Milestone Coins book, but I we've never discussed these in any detail.
A beard tax is one of several taxes introduced throughout history on men who wear beards. In 1705, Emperor Peter I of Russia instituted a beard tax to modernize the society of Russia following European models. Those who paid the tax were required to carry a “beard token”. This was a copper or silver token with a Russian Eagle on one side and on the other, the lower part of a face with nose, mouth, whiskers, and beard. It was inscribed with two phrases: “the beard tax has been taken” and “the beard is a superfluous burden”.
However, Peter the Great was not the first ruler to impose a beard tax upon his subjects, in 1535, King Henry VIII of England, who wore a beard himself, introduced a tax on beards. The tax was a graduated tax, varying with the wearer’s social position. His daughter, Elizabeth I of England, reintroduced the beard tax, taxing every beard of more than two weeks’ growth.
Curious about the counterstamp, I pulled out my copy of
Milestone Coins, which says that "It is possible that the counterstamp found on these pieces may have been a re-validation mark for a subsequent year, but no records remain to confirm this theory." Does anyone have more information about the tokens and their counterstamps? What is the best reference today?
To read the complete article, see:
Beard Tax Token, 1705
One of these sold last month on eBay. To view the auction descriptions, see:
RUSSIA BEARD TOKEN 1705 VF C/M
Wayne Homren, Editor
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