Seven Things You Always Wanted To Know About Numismatists

Sarah Heath

Numismatist Historical Coins

Numismatics is the official term for the study of currency. That is, coins, medals, medallions, paper money, tokens and more. Many numismatists collect rare and interesting examples of coins or medals as a hobby or business. Here are seven things you never knew about numismatists and the studying and collecting of coins, medals, memorabilia and money.


Why is collecting coins known as numismatics?

The use of the term ‘numismatist’ to refer to a coin collector name, or ‘old coin expert’ first appeared in the early Nineteenth Century. It comes from the late Latin word ‘numismatis’, which is a derivative of the word ‘nomisma’, meaning ‘coin’. Numismatics and the overall numismatist definition is about more than collecting coins and medals. A professional numismatist studies their history, metallurgy and cultural importance.


What is the history of numismatics?

History of numismatics

People have long been fascinated by the study of coins, money and medals. The Royal Numismatic Society was founded in 1836 to bring coin and money enthusiasts together. It publishes a journal for members called the Numismatic Chronicle. Across the Atlantic, the American Numismatic Society began in 1858. Its publication, the American Journal of Numismatics was first published in 1866. 

 In 1955, British numismatist, John Allan produced the first systematic study of coins found in the Gupta Empire – an ancient Indian empire from the early 4th Century until the late 6th Century. It remains a standard reference to this day and a seminal work of one of the most famous numismatists to have lived. Other important works have been published, covering different period of numismatic history and geographical regions.


Is numismatics still popular today?

There have been several keen numismatics throughout history who have moved the discipline on. They have provided valuable references and research guides for today’s collectors of coins and medals. Numismatics is still popular today. The rise of online communications and internet-based research avenues makes tracking down rare coins easier. Coin collectors can get in touch with each other more than ever before to discuss findings, arrange sales or exchanges and share information and insights.


What is the difference between a coin collector and a numismatist?

Numismatist holding coins

Numismatics covers a wide range of interest, study areas and collecting activity. Coin experts tend to focus solely (or mainly) on metal-based money, medals and objects used as currency or to mark special occasions or achievements. Numismatic coins vary in their size, metallurgy and design and make fascinating collections that can be worth a lot of money in modern terms. As well as medals and coins, enthusiasts can study and collect paper money (known as notaphily), stocks and bonds (scripophily) and tokens, encased coins, credit cards and other objects used as legal currency or commemoration (exonumia or paranumismatica). Professional numismatists often deal in coins and medals, making a paying occupation out of their passion for the subject.


How can I become a numismatist?

Become a numismatist

There is no specific training or formal qualification required to become a numismatist. A genuine and abiding love of coins, medals and money is, of course, essential, along with good research skills, an eye for detail and plenty of patience. It can take years for especially rare examples to come within reach of a numismatic specialist or medal and coin collector. If you need more information about an exciting find, or about the study of coins in general, consult a local coin appraiser who will be delighted to help. 

To become a professional numismatist, you will need to build up stocks of interesting, rare and valuable coins, medals, medallions and more to attract custom. You will also need to carry out plenty of research to make your name known as a n expert in the field. It is vitally important to be aware of the value of different coins and medals in order to trade them accurately and authentically.

Discover The Collection: Mudie Series


Where can I meet other numismatists?

Numismatic Society

The Royal Numismatic Society still exists to bring collectors of coins and medal and other forms of currency or commemorative objects together. It is the foremost British numismatic society and offers extensive resources to assist with research and ongoing study. The Society enables its members to meet and converse with each other through publications, meetings, talks and by offering scholarships, grants and prizes in numismatics study. To get involved, you can become a member and interact with others in person at meetings and talks, as well as via social media avenues like Facebook and Twitter.


What are some of the oldest coins that have ever been found?

The Lyndian Lion is widely considered to be the oldest coin ever found. It was created around 600BC in what is now western Turkey. It is made from an alloy of gold and silver called electrum and pre-dates ancient Greek coinage. Other extremely old finds include a Roman silver coin dating from around 211BC that turned up in Hallerton in England in the year 2000 in amongst a larger collection of Iron Age coins. It depicts the mythical twins Castor and Pollux on horseback on one side and the Roman Goddess, Roma, on the other.

Other examples have included a Persian Daric golden coin dated from 520-480BC from the Achaemenid Persian Empire in Western Asia and a silver Aegina Sea Turtle coin from the Greek island of Aegina, around 550BC. Others have come from ancient India and China around these dates.

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