|What is Numismatics?
| Numismatics (Greek nomisma – current
coin) is the study of money and its history in all its varied
forms. Whilst numismatists are often thought of as only interested
in coins, the discipline also includes the study of medals,
medallions, tokens and banknotes.
Coins may take many forms, but normally are round (or nearly
so) and metallic. They may be officially issued for genuine
exchange or as coin-medals which may bear a valuation, but are
not meant for circulation. Medals may be commemorative, for
prizes, or for military awards. Medallions are large medals,
from outsize Roman gold pieces to medieval portraits to modern
sculptured plaques. Tokens usually take the place of coins and
circulate at fixed values under special circumstances when official
coins are unavailable, or they may shade into the medallic souvenir
area if not struck for circulation. Banknotes usually are issued
to circulate as money, although they also may take the form
of souvenirs not meant for real circulation.
In a wider sense, the term numismatics may be expanded to include
other types of exchange. Primitive forms of money have long
interested some collectors, and these objects may shade into
more standard coinages, such as the crude early Roman as series.
At the most modern end of the exchange spectrum, stock certificates,
with their engraved vignettes similar to those on banknotes,
and even credit cards, are “collectables” that have
been accepted into the more classic numismatic tent.
Aside from pure collecting, the mark of a numismatist is an
interest in the study of money and its place in history. For
this, some knowledge of what has been published is essential
and a personal library is the best way to achieve this. Fields
of interest vary widely, but all require a familiarity with
previous work, not only of single-subject books, but also of
articles, sale catalogues, and published material in museums
and private collections, and this is especially true for anyone
planning to conduct original research. A very wise man once
said: “Buy the book before you buy the coin!”.