What is numismatics

Numismatics, or coin collecting, is one of the most famous and oldest hobbies in the world. It comes from the Greek word "nomisma," which means currency or coin. Numismatics is defined as the systematic collection and study of coins, tokens, paper money and similar articles. A scholar who studies the science of Numismatics is called a numismatist. Serious collectors are also referred to as numismatists.


In ancient times, pieces of gold and silver ingots were the most common form of medium of payment. Since there were no standards, each transaction called for deliberate weighing and scrutiny because of dishonest merchants. Coins were invented in Lydia around 660 BC. Today, Lydia, a territory of western Asia Minor, belongs to Turkey but in that time was under Greek influence. The coins, which were printed on standardized weights of precious metals, were stamped with a government guarantee of value.

As soon as the first coins were minted, the hobby of coin collecting began. That time, there were no banks available in which to store money so coin collecting was only practical. Even back then, coins were being hoarded due to their rarity and value. Often these coins were being passed down within families. The late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance saw the great demand for numismatics.

Coin collecting may have existed in ancient times. Caesar Augustus gave "coins of every device, including old pieces of the kings and foreign money" as Saturnalia gifts. Petrarch, who wrote in a letter that he was often approached by vinediggers with old coins asking him to buy or to identify the ruler, is credited as the first Renaissance collector. Petrarch presented a collection of Roman coins to Emperor Charles IV in 1355. The first book on coins was De Asse et Partibus (1514) by Guillaume Budé. During the early Renaissance ancient coins were collected by European royalty and nobility. Collectors of coins were Pope Boniface VIII, Emperor Maximilian of the Holy Roman Empire, Louis XIV of France, Ferdinand I, Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg who started the Berlin coin cabinet and Henry IV of France to name a few. Numismatics is called the "Hobby of Kings", due to its most esteemed founders.

Professional societies organised in the 19th century. The Royal Numismatic Society was founded in 1836 and immediately began publishing the journal that became the Numismatic Chronicle. The American Numismatic Society was founded in 1858 and began publishing the American Journal of Numismatics in 1866.


In 1931 the British Academy launched the Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum publishing collections of Ancient Greek coinage. The first volume of Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles was published in 1958. In the 20th century coins gained recognition as archaeological objects, scholars such as Guido Bruck of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna realised their value in providing a temporal context and the difficulty that curators faced when identifying worn coins using classical literature. After World War II in Germany a project, Fundmünzen der Antike (Coin finds of the Classical Period) was launched, to register every coin found within Germany. This idea found successors in many countries.

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