Coin collecting has a long and illustrious history. Growing from its roots in ancient Rome, coin collecting has become a hobby that can be enjoyed by casual collectors and numismatists alike.
Around the fourth and third centuries BCE, people started collecting art. During this time, coins were considered art, and were often made into jewelry and decorative pieces. Centuries later, in 805, Charlemagne designed and issued a series of coins in the Roman Imperial style.
Over the next several centuries, coin collecting evolved from an artistic appreciation to a scientific discipline. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Nestorian scholars who worked for the princes of Jazira (modern-day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq) faithfully replicated coins from the Roman Empire. They removed Christian symbols to appeal to the predominately Muslim population. The quality and detail of these coins suggest the Nestorians had an unprecedented collection and they devoted a lot of time to studying coins.
Following the Renaissance, interest in ancient coins developed, and prices skyrocketed. During this period, wealthy royalty and nobility commissioned artists to create commemorative medals and replicas of ancient coins, which eventually gained their own value. Not surprisingly, the popularity of rare coins gave rise to an insidious market of forgeries and counterfeit coins.
By the 1600’s coin collectors took a more academic focus. The field of numismatics (the study of coins) developed as collectors published and distributed scholarly reports on their findings. This formalized exchange of information revolutionized coin collecting, legitimizing it as a scientific domain.
During the 19th century, institutions and governments entered the coin collecting arena. Merchants and professionals picked up the hobby, and the number of private collections exploded. Numismatics societies popped up in Europe, Britain, and the United States. In more recent decades collectors have started using precious metals as a means of preserving their wealth.
From its beginning as the “hobby of kings,” coin collecting has gained popularity worldwide and blossomed into its own respected field of study. With interest and appreciation growing, the field will undoubtedly continue to evolve.