The Ins And Outs Of Numismatics

Posted by Allison on 6 April 2009, 15:06

It is unquestionably human nature that causes us to study everything around us, and that is certainly true in the case of currency.  There are dozens and dozens of currencies circulating in the world at present, and history has traced a path through many more over time.  Just as new currencies make themselves known, old ones are consigned to the past, never to be seen as legal tender again.  They then become part of the realm of the numismatists, who make it their passion to study currency in every single form and style it has ever appeared in.

Numismatics is literally the study and background of everything pertaining to currency.  As such this can include every single currency that has ever existed, from the ancient methods of money that were used before the first coins appeared, right through to today's coins and banknotes.

As you can imagine, not all numismatists are the same – nor do they study the same areas of interest.  That's probably one of the main reasons why it is such a fascinating area to delve into; if you already have an interest in ancient times then exploring that particular branch of numismatics will no doubt be of interest to you.  Other people on the other hand tend to prefer looking into all the more modern aspects of numismatics.  As such there really is something here for everyone, and you can usually tell the difference between the people who study coins purely to collect the more valuable ones, and those who study it more for pleasure and for interest.

You may find it hard to believe, but the interest in currency is notable enough for some institutions to offer courses in numismatics.  For people that want to make a career out of currency in some way (perhaps they want to become a coin dealer, or they want to trade in currencies and feel that some more background information would help them in some way) this is a good bet and a very interesting course to take.

While banknotes obviously play a big part in modern currencies and have been around for quite a while, they do not have the long history that coins do, which stretches back thousands of years and provides a link with civilisations that ruled the earth long before we came along.  This seems to provide a fascination which many coin collectors and numismatists get hooked on, and it is hardly surprising when you think that you could be holding a coin which was used in, let's say, Caesar's Rome. 

If you have an interest in finding out more about numismatics, the best place to start is often by looking into the various sources of information which exist online.  The main question to ask yourself is this – do you want to learn more about some branch of numismatics, or do you want to start collecting coins?  The answer to that question should start you off in the right direction.

If you do start to learn more about numismatics, you'll be in esteemed company.  Many US presidents have appeared on coins and banknotes over time, but one of them – John Quincy Adams, who served as President between the years 1825 and 1829 – was a numismatist himself.  Louis XIV of France also had a passion for numismatics, although his preference was for the French coins his country had produced over time.  Many other people were famous as numismatists in their time, and still others are perhaps not famous but are well known in their own circles as respected coin dealers and numismatists in their own right.

When it comes to buying coins to add to your own collection you would be well advised to do so through a reputable dealer.  These are regarded as numismatists, whereas if you buy them from someone on an auction site (or in some cases another website) you never quite know what you are letting yourself in for.

One of the most unusual facts about numismatics which many people find hard to believe is that many people who lived hundreds and even thousands of years ago were numismatists themselves.  It does seem strange that they might have been collecting the very coins which have now found their way into other people's collections, but it seems that money and currency as a whole has always held a certain fascination for us humans, so it shouldn't really be that surprising that we have always wanted to collect coins of all kinds.

The wonderful thing about numismatics is that as time goes on, it deepens and becomes ever more fascinating as history adds more information to its vaults.  Even the ins and outs of today's currencies are intriguing to study, as numismatics covers everything we know and deal with to do with currency in modern times as well as ancient ones.

Another area of more modern numismatics which is similar to that of stamp collecting is the field of errors.  Sometimes when coins are minted en masse, errors do occur and even if they are spotted and do not go into general circulation, they take on a value which is altogether different from what is stamped into the design. 

So is numismatics for you?  As you can see, contrary to what you might have believed you don't need a lot of money to invest in a coin collection to become a numismatist.  Many numismatists don't have a collection at all, instead choosing to study some other aspect of currency that interests them.  As such there is a lot of freedom in the hobby, and whatever you have an interest in you are sure to find other people out there who are curious about the same aspects of currency that you are.

It may not seem to be the most exciting hobby on the surface, but in fact numismatics opens a door onto our own history, and as such it may be the most intriguing one you ever open.