If you think maintaining a beard is expensive these days, you might consider yourself lucky compared to 17th century Russians. Archaeologists have discovered a rare 300-year-old coin that was once used to prove the holder had paid for beard tax. The “beard kopek” is only the second known example of the coin and is considered priceless.
The coin was discovered in the remains of a 17th-century building in the western Russian city of Pskov. It was one of over 5,000 coins recovered from the site. The kopek is made of copper and features the image of a beard and a mustache. The words “Money Paid” is written above the mustache.
The copper token was reportedly minted in 1699.
It is the oldest ‘beard tax coin’ ever found.
But what exactly is beard tax? The policy was implemented by Tsar Peter the Great in 1698 following his incognito visit to Britain where he only saw clean-shaven men. The tsar decided that he would put out a strict rule that his people must adopt a similar look.
Some beard kopek were made of silver and were handed to wealthier people.
Beards were a major part of religion, as being hirsute was an Orthodox practice. Peter the Great was certainly asking his people to either follow orders or stay true to their beliefs.
He did, however, allow people the option to keep their beards if they pay a hefty sum. Upon payment, they will be given the special token.
The Tsar himself preferred to keep a feathery mustache.
The coin was more than just a little reminder that you paid a lot of money just to stay hairy. Men were required to carry it with them and present it to the police when you are stopped for having facial hair. Failure to present the token would give the Tsar’s police the honor of shaving your beard off.
The police can shave you immediately if you don’t have your kopek.
The policy was stopped after the Tsar’s death and the beard kopeks were taken back to be melted down into new coins. This is why the rare token is so remarkable. Needless to say, men should be grateful that they can be as hairy as they want to be in modern times.
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