Numismatics is the study of the collection of currency. This includes coins, tokens, paper money, and similar objects. But it is widely perceived as the study of coin collection.
Numismatic value refers to the value in excess of the actual monetary value. It is also termed ‘collector’s value’ or ‘intrinsic value’. The tendency to collect coins may have existed a long time ago. Caesar Augustus used to give all types of coins as Saturnalia gifts. Petrarch is considered to be the first Renaissance collector.
In 1355, he presented a collection of Roman coins to Emperor Charles IV. In the early Renaissance period, members of the European nobility and royalty used to collect ancient coins. Such eminent coin collectors include Pope Boniface VIII, Emperor Maxmilian of the Holy Roman Empire, Louis XIV of France, Ferdinand I, etc.
Numismatics, in fact, has been described as the ‘hobby of kings’. The Royal Numismatic Society was founded in 1836. It also published a journal that became the Numismatic Chronicle. The American Numismatic Society was established in 1858. It began publishing its own journal, the American Journal of Numismatics.
Post World War II, Germany flagged off a project, which had takers in other countries as well, to register all coins found in Germany. Coins were seen more as archaeological objects in fact. In the US, a coin cabinet was formed in 1838 by the US mint when chief coiner, Adam Eckfeldt donated his personal collection of coins.
In modern times, numismatics studies the coins of the mid 17th to the 21st century. It is more out of a personal interest than for historical research purposes. King Farouk I of Egypt was an avid collector of coins but he was not a scholar who studied them like actual numismatists do.
There are also coin dealers who grade coins for commercial purposes as well as scholar numismatists. Expert numismatists offer their services to historians, museum curators and archaeologists.