The History of Numismatics

Renowned as the ‘Hobby of Kings’, numismatics is not same as coin collecting. It studies the value, damage, culture, and history of coins. Moreover, coin collecting is a leisurely hobby whilst numismatists is a study. Our complete history of numismatics and coinage will help you start on numismatics QUICKLY!  

Where does the Word Numismatics Come From 

The etymology of Numismatics is not brief. 

Originating from the adjective ‘of coins’ or numismatic, the word numismatics is taken from the French Word numismatiquesMoreover, numismatics comes from the Latin Word ‘nomismo’. Numismatics is originally taken from the Greek word nomisma, which means ‘to hold as a custom’

History of Coin minting in the Early Ages 

Shells and stones were used to make the earliest coins. After the discovery of precious metals such as silver, gold, copper, and bronze, coins were minted on precious metals. The first coins came into use 7th BC, Lydia without any stamping or punching. Moreover, the molten form of electrum (an alloy of gold and silver) was poured to make the bullion coins.

The History of Coins 

You can trace back coins in English by 1829. However, coin making was in use since 6th century BC! 

Did you know the earliest coins were from gemstones such as Yellow Amber? Numismatics is the study of coins. Moreover, one who studies numismatics is a numismatic. To learn about coins, you should know the history of numismatics.

  1. History of Coins in Lydia

First coins in the world came from Lydia. Archaeologists claim the name of the coin as ‘Lydian Trite’. A silver-gold alloy called electrum was used in 564 BC to make Lydian coins. Read more about the history of Silver Bullion. The Lydian Lion and the Trojan Horse of Agamemnon were the other notable symbolisms from the Lydian age of Coinage. 

  1. Greek History of Coinage 

In 482 BC, the Greeks discovered a silver mine in Laurion, Athens. As a result, silver coins made from these mines were cut to create round coins called drachma. Greek coins were made with 4.3g Silver in the face of Goddess Athena

As Greece was a collection of over 2000 states, coins in Greek history represents each state. Hence, the obverse of the coin showed the face of a goddess while reverse showed the thriving industry in the State. 

  1. Coins in Egypt

The first minted coins in Egypt date back to the period of Late Dynasty. Coinage in Egypt began with Ptolemy I. As gold was too-precious and there were no silver mines in Egypt, Ptolemies used bronze to make coins. 

  1. Coinage in Indian History 

By 6th BC, India began making coins with electrum. The earliest Indian coins were punch marked into three types- Pana, Karshapana, and Purana. With the influence of Indo-Greek Kings, the custom of stamping faces started. Hence, the coins showed Indian Kings on one side and their favorite deity on the other. The Moghul emperor replaced the faces of Hindu Kings and deities in the 16th century on with Islamic texts and calligraphy.

The British minted Carolina (gold coin), Angelina (silver coins) and Cupperon (copper coins) in Bombay (Mumbai now) and tried popularizing it in India. However, the rupaiya coins of Moghul dynasty prevailed until the introduction of paper currency in the 18th century in India. 

  1. Coins in Rome 

The oldest Roman coin dates back to 2,224 years. It has Goddess Roma with horse twins (Castor and Pollux) on the reverse. Generated almost at the same time as Indian coinage, Roman coins were available in gold, silver, and bronze. Moreover, the first coins in Rome came from a bronze called Aes Grave (Strong bronze). Roman coins were the first interesting finds of Numismatics in the 20th century.

  1. Coins in China 

World’s earliest coins were made from cowries and shells according to archaeologists from China. Dating back to 11th century, the first coins in China were made of copper, called Tong Bao. Additionally, the round coins had a square shaped hole in the middle. It is a mix of 83% copper, 2% Tin and 15% Lead

History of Numismatics

The historic value of studying currency, including but, not limited to coins is numismatics. Although the collection of currency started as early as it was introduced, the documented use of coin study starts further down the timeline.  

Numismatics was first mentioned in De Asse et Partibus by Guillaume Budé in 1514 A.D. Moreover, it was the first book on coins, recorded in History. 

Another record of numismatics was by Caesar Augustus, who used to gift his rare collection of coins to guests during Saturnalia (Festival of Saturn). 

  • Renaissance in Europe 

Papal Mints in the History of Numismatics 

As the Papal mints issued coins during the times of Pope Boniface VIII to Pious IX, there was a rise in the love of coins. The same is why Pope Boniface is one of the earliest numismatists dating back to 13th century. 

Renaissance History of Numismatics

During the age of Renaissance, a new trend of collecting classic things rose. From literature to coins, everything old became valuable during 13th and 14th century. 

At the same time, an Italian scholar named Francesco Petrarca claimed vinediggers often asked him to identify coins and currency from diverse areas of the world. In addition, he is the first numismatist in history. 

In the early 14th century, Petrarch also gifted a rare box of coins from the Roman era to Charles IV! 

Some other prominent numismatists since the 14th century are Louis XIV, Emperor Maximillian and Henry IV from France. 

  • 19th and 20th Century History of Numismatics 

With advanced technology, numismatists began using X-Ray in fluorescence spectroscopy to determine the value and history of coins. 

Royal Numismatic Society 

The first official society of Numismatics was organized in 1836. However, it was first named as the Numismatic Society of London. RNS released the first ever Numismatics Chronicle in 1883. The society also gives Medals of Honor to people distinguished for their contribution to the science of numismatics annually. 

American Numismatics Society

Established in 1858, ANS released the journals starting in 1866. It has 800,000 objects relating to numismatic sciences since 7th BC. The president of ANS, Edward Newell left his lifetime collection of coins to ANS for making it the biggest numismatic collections in the world.

The British Numismatic Society 

With over 600 members, BNS was founded in 1903. The registered charity offers lectures and memberships to study currency, coins, tokens and medals in the world. With over 115 institutions as members, BNS has loyal members with a history of more than 50 years too!

  • 21st Century Development in Numismatics 

Modern Numismatics 

According to numismatists, Modern Numismatics studies coins from the 1650s, which is the era of machine-made coins. In the 21st century, numismatics studies coins with errors, damages, symbols, and texts relating to the earlier ages.  

In 2018, there are clubs and societies that award memberships and scholarships to budding numismatists too. 

Numismatics consists of different subsets such as Exonumia (the study of coins and medals), Notaphily (the study of paper money) and Scripophily (the study of stocks). Moreover, it focuses on the study of civilizations based on the archaeological value of coins. 

In a Nutshell 

History of numismatics begins during renaissance when classic things were glorified. However, the history of coinage starts in 7th BC. Hence, if you want to know the historic value of numismatics through diverse civilizations, our complete history of numismatics plus coinage will help you.

Today, numismatic museums are present all around the world. Start your journey with numismatics by visiting a museum of coins close to you!


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