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!”.