Definition: Numismatics is the study of coins, currencies and monetary instruments issued by governments for their country or region.

Numismatics is the study of money and money related items such as coins, paper money, medals, and stock certificates. The broadest numismatic definition involves the study of any form of money. This includes common modern methods like cryptocurrencies, bullion, and credit cards to ancient methods like gems, cowry shells, cocoa beans, lambskins and the like.

The word numismatics stems from nomisma, the Latin word for coin which was then adopted by the French word numismatiques and lastly converted to numismatics by the English. As indicated by the Latin root, numismatics most widely applies to the study of coins. This includes the condition of coins and how certain coins have been used throughout history.

Modern numismatics however, usually refers to the study of coins for coin collecting with a high focus on understanding a coin’s value. This study typically involves grading coins, computing a coin’s relative rarity, and determining a coin’s historical significance among many other factors. Special points of interest in modern numismatics are varieties within a series of coins. These can include mint made errors, variations between mints for a coin series, and even coins that have been modified post production.

Numismatics technically covers three main subfields, Exonumia, Notaphily, and Scripophily.

  • Exonumia refers to coin-like objects, including coins, medals, souvenir medallions, wooden coins, and similar objects that have been used in place of legal currency.

  • Notaphily refers specifically to paper money, namely historical paper money and collections of paper money.

  • Scripophily refers specifically to stocks and bonds. Historically stocks were traded with certificates and engraved metals, and scripophily tends to focus on these elements more than active trading in stocks or bonds.


Someone who is passionate about or certified and trained in numismatics is considered a numismatist. This definition applies to amateur or non certified coin collectors who have studied coins. In fact there are many famous examples of amateurs who have forever influenced professional and trained numismatists. A great example of this is Walter Breen, author of Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. On the other end of the spectrum, professional and certified numismatists generally play an important role in determining the grade of a coin and the value of a coin. To become a professional numismatist, one must be certified by organizations like the International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN), the British Numismatic Trade Association (BNTA) or similar professional numismatic organizations.

Numismatics Now

Numismatic information plays a very important role in determining the value of a currency. Generally this tends to be most accurate in understanding the current value of historical currencies. Numismatics is deeply fascinating especially now, as the information age merges with the archaic to provide the history and the details of coins that could be found in your collection.

The internet has increased the access to numismatic information. Sites like Numiis seek to use historical data and algorithms to provide users with all the numismatic information they would need to make accurate decisions about buying or selling coins. Another great example is the Newman Numismatic Portal which offers excellent historical numismatic information. There are many local clubs and organizations to learn further, but the most recommended way to learn more about numismatics is to start collecting coins.

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