Derived from the Latin root for “coin” and the Greek for “use under the law,” numismatics is the study of currency and the systems it affects. Numismatists study coins, tokens, and paper money. Because numismatics is a historical and economic study of money’s use and evolution, the field has also expanded to include the study of modern payment media for exchanging goods and resolving debts.
While numismatists are interested in non-monetary forms of payment (e. g. , cowry shells, precious metals, or gemstones), they do not focus on goods used for barter. For instance, the Kygyz people paid one another using horses, using lambskins as “small change” to settle value differences. Numismatists would not consider the horses to be currency, since they served a specific function beyond that of monetary exchange.
When most people think of numismatics, they think of modern numismatics. This branch of the discipline focuses on coins from the mid-17th century to the modern era - the period during which modern coins have been machine struck.
Most modern numismatists are coin collectors rather than scholars. They study the historical and social context of a coin’s production and pay close attention to factors that determine a coin’s value. These factors include rarity, errors in mintage, and coin condition. Thus they generally focus on coins’ value for collectors and investors.
Milestones in Numismatic History
Although the term “numismatist” is often used synonymously with the word “collector,” the two words do not have precisely the same meaning. There are essentially three “tiers” of numismatists:
The field of numismatics offers limitless opportunities for coin collectors to expand their knowledge beyond coins. By understanding the context and implications of money through time, amateurs and professionals alike gain valuable insight into the fascinating background of this pleasurable hobby.
This information is provided for general reference purposes and does not constitute professional advice. For detailed coin collecting or investing information, please consult with a professional expert.