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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Crisp Old Rubles Fetch More Than Face Value

At the same time most Russians are wildly dumping their old rubles, some people are selling the same banknotes with Lenin's visage at a premium.


Pyotr Severinyanov, a collector of old monies, is one of this band of contrarians who believe that old notes will one day be worth significantly more than their face value.


"If you have old bills in good condition, you should save them because there will always be a demand from collectors", he said at a weekly coin and bill market off Komsomolskaya Ulitsa. "Look here: That's Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and, you know, he's a part of our history. Banknotes with his portrait will become expensive".


On Sunday, Severinyanov sold crisp pre-1993 5, 000 ruble notes for 5, 300, with 100 notes going for 200 rubles. Even 50-ruble bills invalidated during a previous 1991 currency reform are already worth more than face value at 100 rubles, as are older tsarist and early revolutionary ruble notes, dealers say.


The key factor in determining old money's worth is its condition: A crispness that makes the bill snap when it is waved in the air marks the sign of ideal quality. "A top collector will not accept anything else", said coin and bill dealer Viktor Petrov. "Wrinkled old money will be as valuable as toilet paper".


Time is another factor in determining a bank note's value, dealers say.


"A certain period of time must pass before these older notes will regain their value", said Volodya Raipo.


If collectors are looking at the long term for profit, another group of Russians sees the invalidation of all pre-1993 notes as an extraordinary opportunity for short-term gain, if one is willing to take risks.


The simplest scheme people are taking about is buying old rubles at a discount from those desperate to unload them.


Then speculators will trade them at savings banks, using documents of friends and family members who have not used up their right to exchange 100, 000 worth of old rubles.


Both bank officials and some well-connected Muscovites are also saying that corruption among bank clerks will allow some to exceed the 100, 000 limit.


"When I came to work in 1991, a KGB official sat in my office to control things", said Igor Litkin, the manager of 16 downtown Moscow Sberbank savings banks. "Now that doesn't exist and there is no control".


Another possibility for speculators is to buy up old rubles cheap and then travel to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan or other republics that still accept the old money, and buy gold, carpets or other valuables for export.