Numismatics is a term given to the collection and study of currency including coins, banknotes, tokens and medals.
A person who studies and/or collects current related items is known as a numismatist. Numismatic study aims to identify coins according to place, date and government issue. This sort of information can be used to draw conclusions about the political, social and cultural history of a specific time period. Nearly all coins are inscribed with their issue date, making them extremely useful to archaeologists.
Numismatics can be divided into two sub-categories. Numismatography is the part of numismatics which is concerned with describing coins and numismatology is the part of numismatics concerned with the cultural, artistic and economic implications of particular forms of currency.
It is believed that the first coins were used in China around the time of 800-1000 BC. Lydia, in Asia Minor, first used coins called “starters” around the time of 600-700BC. Starters were marked with the image of a lion’s head and were made from an alloy of gold and silver.
Early Americans used notes made from furs, wampum and tobacco as a form of currency. Americans first started to produce coins in the 17th century. After the birth of the American government, regular coinage became common.
There is evidence of coin collections from the Roman era. In Vidy, Switzerland, 70 gold Roman coins were found. Each coin was of a different specimen, indicating that this was a collection as opposed to financial savings.
The earliest known coin collector was the Roman Emperor Augustus (63BC-14AD) who collected rare coins and occasionally gave them to loved ones as gifts.
Modern coin collecting is thought to have originated in the 14th century and became a popular hobby towards the beginning of the Renaissance period. During this time, many popes and members of royalty would collect coins, and the name “hobby of kings” was born. Famous coin collectors of this time include King Louis XIV of France, Elector Joachim II of Bradenburg and Pope Boniface VIII.
The founding of societies such as the American Numismatic Association and the American Numismatic Society during the 1880s increased awareness about numismatics as a hobby and since then it has been a popular pastime across the world. Modern coin collectors include Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
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