What is a Numismatist?

Numismatics, derivative of the Late Latin numisma for “coin”, is the study and collection of currency, including coins, paper money, tokens, and exchanged goods. Numismatists are the individuals who study these currencies, usually specializing in specific types, regions, countries or eras. Their research pertains mainly to the currencies’ production and physical attributes, as well as any historical information that is relevant to their studies, such as the sociopolitical context of a coin minting in history.

The term numismatist is often associated with coins, but numismatics cover a broad spectrum of currency studies. Subfields of Numismatics include Exonumia, the study of tokens and medals, Scripophily, the study of old stocks and bonds, and Notaphily, the study of paper money and banknotes. Today we will focus on coin-specialized numismatists. Coin collectors, specialized dealers, and scholars are all types of numismatists, and in this article we will explore how each of these are engaged in the coin industry.

How Does Someone Become a Numismatist?

As there is very little formal education available in the study of numismatics, most numismatists are either self-taught, or are introduced to the subject from within the study of a separate academic discipline, such as history, archaeology, or metal sciences. Some postgraduate programs involve numismatic studies, in which the training is mostly in the form of research.

Thusly, there are no formal certifications or prerequisites to qualify an individual as a numismatist; Non-accredited courses such as the Numismatic Diploma Program through the American Numismatic Association and awards such as the Medal of the Royal Numismatic Society are examples of acknowledgements of a numismatist’s studies and achievements, but neither formal education nor accolades are required for a numismatist to be regarded as highly knowledgeable and respectable.

How Does a Numismatist Differ from a Coin Collector or Coin Dealer?

The terms numismatist, coin dealer and coin collector are often used interchangeably, though the perception that all three terms are equal to one another is a naive assumption. For one thing, we have already established that a numismatist is considered an expert, and not every coin collector and coin dealer can be classified as such. Additionally, not all numismatists engage in the study of coins; There are many other types of currencies a numismatist can be proficient in. Many coin collectors and dealers are indeed numismatists, but this is individual to the person and their experience and should never be assumed. There are a few subcategories of coin-focused numismatists that help to explain the differences of these terms and how to they often interlink.

Coin collectors are individuals who gather coins for investment, interest or enjoyment. Those who have done extensive research on particular areas of interest are considered amateur numismatists, and their collections tend to be more focused on the historical details and rarity of the coins in their collection than the average coin collector. Coin collecting is considered by many to be the first step on the road towards gaining numismatist status.

A coin dealer may or may not be a collector themselves, and they buy and sell coins whether they are authorities on the subject or not. Coin dealers who aid in the rare coin trade by working for commercial grading companies to determine coin value and rarity are considered professional numismatists. Though it is not a requirement in order to deal coins, the most knowledgeable coin dealers also tend to be numismatists and collectors.

The third type of numismatists are scholars, who are not always directly involved in the coin trade. This group often works for museums and historical institutions to provide insight into currencies’ historical and economical context. They can be sought after by various dealers and collectors for their deep knowledge on the background of coins they are considering. These scholars may indeed be collectors or dealers themselves, but not by way of their everyday work.


A numismatist is a broad term for the many types of coin and currency experts that exist today, and many are self-taught through years of research and experience. In this way, it is widely accepted that in order to be a numismatist you must first start as a collector. Coin dealers and coin collectors can be considered numismatists if they hold expert-level knowledge on the subject. The most knowledgeable dealers tend to be collectors and numismatists themselves. When considering a purchase, numismatists of all types are excellent sources of information and often looked to for guidance. Understanding the differentiating circumstances between the different types of numismatists provides great insight into the knowledge and experience of various coin dealers and collectors you will come across within the coin industry.

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