If you were around in 1690s Russia, and you’re on our site, chances are that you may have needed this little coin:
This coin, issued by Tsar Peter the Great, acted as a receipt of payment for the “Beard Tax” that was introduced in 1698. If you had a beard and wanted to keep it around, you had to pay up. In return, you’d be given a token like this one. But if you weren’t able to show your token, you would be forcibly shaven by the police.
The image on this coin shows a pair of lips and a nose decorated with a mustache and beard along with the phrase “money paid” in Russian. As a side, historical note, this is one of 5000 coins that were recently found in the remains of a 17th-century building in Pskov, Russia, just two years ago. Once found, it earned itself as a place as one of the oldest coins ever found.
Weirdly enough, the idea of a beard tax wasn’t just limited to late 1600s Russia. Almost 100 years before, King Henry VIII, a proudly bearded man himself, introduced his own beard tax. The amount set varied based on the social position of the man, but for his daughter, Elizabeth I, it was more established. Every beard of more than two weeks of growth was supposed to be taxed, although she had difficulty enforcing it
For Peter the Great, the idea of the tax was born after he visited Western Europe and was amazed to see absolutely no beards at all. Once he saw that beard were out of style, he decided to try to get that trend going in Russia.
A look at Peter the Great, completed in 1698, with little to no facial hair.
In Russia, this tax lasted until 1772, and unfortunately, many Russian men lived their lives without beards to save their tax money.
What's the takeaway from this? Today, be grateful for the little things, like not having to pay for the privilege to rock that incredible beard you've been working on.