What Is Numismatics?

The study of the physical embodiment of various payment media (i.e. currencies). The study of numismatics as it applies to coins is often in the research of the production and use of the coins to determine their rarity. Numismatics has many subfields, including but not limited to:

  • Notaphily - the study of paper money (i.e. bank notes)
  • Exonumia - the study of coin-like items such as medals used in place of currency
  • Scripophily - the study of securities (i.e. stocks and bonds)

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Understanding Numismatics

Numismatics differs from historical and economic studies of money. Numismatists study the physical attributes of the payment media rather than the use and development. Numismatics also differs from coin collecting due to the scientific research involved. It could be said that all numismatists are coin collectors, but not all coin collectors are numismatists. It is widely believed that numismatics began during the European Renaissance, as part of an effort to re-discover all things classical.

The first English usage of the word “numismatics” was in 1829, stemming from the word adjective numismatic, which translates to "of coins”, and stemmed from the French word “numismatiques”, which itself derived from the Latin word “numismatis”.

There are numerous societies dedicated to the study, research and advancement of numismatics sciences. For example, The American Numismatic Society, founded in New York City in 1858, was created to foster public appreciation of coins, medals, and currencies, and has since cultivated more than 800,000 objects dating from 650 BCE, and boasts a numismatic library, with some 100,000 books and artifacts. Other numismatic organizations include:

  • Ancient Coins Collectors Guild
  • Archaeological Institute of America
  • The Canadian Numismatic Association
  • The Czech Numismatic Society
  • International Numismatic Commission/Commission Internationale de Numismatique
  • The Israel Numismatic Society
  • Oriental Numismatic Society
  • The Professional Numismatists Guild
  • The Royal Numismatic Society
  • The Numismatic Association of Australia
  • The Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand

Numismatic Fun Facts

  • Florence, Italy, was the first world city to mint its own gold coins, in the year 1252.
  • Although collecting old coins is a global hobby practiced by the masses, in ancient times, it was deemed a royal hobby, solely enjoyed by kings and queens.
  • The United States Secret Service, enacted in 1865, was originally created to fight counterfeit money, during a time when one-third of all bills were thought to be fake. It wasn't until 1902 that the Secret Service shifted its responsibility to protecting president, following the assassination of President William McKinley.