What is numismatics?

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03 February 2018
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Marcus_Aurelius_Denarius-60814.png A Roman coin of Marcus Aurelius
Numismatics is the study or collection of coins. A person who studies or collects coinage is often referred to as a 'numismatist'. The terms can also include the study of currency in general, tokens, and paper money (also known as 'notaphily').

Popular areas of study for numismatists include:

  • Roman coins - stretching across many regions and periods of history
  • Greek coins - ancient coins from as far back as 600 BC 
  • Anglo-Saxon and Celtic coins used in the UK and Europe
  • Coins of China (such as the Ching Dynasty Provincial Coins)

Of course, numismatics can cover many different types of coinage; academic study and the publication of related literature can be found across the world, covering all periods.

The phrase comes, via English and French, from the Latin word 'numismatis' meaning 'coins'. 

Academic study of coins

There are societies and university departments around the world that specialise in the study of coins and the sharing of information. You can keep up to date with the latest academic discoveries, exhibitions, and publiations with the 'Expert Eye' section in every issue of Coin Collector.

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Collecting coins

Coin collectors can also said to be involved in numismatics, although the term usually refers to thsoe collectors specialising in more historic, often more complex, coinage of the past.

Find out how to start collecting coins with our simple introduction.

The coin trade

Many coin traders and auctioneers can also be said to be numismatists, having a wide knowledge of coins and their value.

Many auctions offer rare coins with a proven provenance, providing the potential bidders with a brief history of the coin.

Other terms related to numismatics, include:

  • Notaphily - the collecting and study of banknotes
  • Paranumismatics - the collecting and study of tokens

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