In Focus: Numismatics

Posted on March 20, 2010 in Alternative Careers

Swati Nandy:

Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. While numismatics are often characterized as students or collectors of coins, the discipline also includes the broader study of money and other payment media used to resolve debts and the exchange of goods. Every coin or medal being a product of the cultural, economic and political conditions under which it originated, this science is divided according to the various civilized communities of mankind. It is not only a distinct science but also, in its respective parts, a branch of all those sciences which are concerned with the history of nations and of their culture.

The Russian Numismatic Society (RNS) was organized in 1978 and is a non-profit group of collectors and students interested in the filed of Russian Numismatics. The Society takes the broadest view of the scope of Russian Numismatics, including the study of coinage, paper money, tokens, medals, awards, orders and decorations, and the history of the production of the various objects. The Society’s aim is to be helpful and useful to as wide a range of interests as possible.

The American Numismatic Association is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to educating and encouraging people to study and collect money and related items. With nearly 33,000 members, the Association serves the academic community, collectors and the general public with an interest in numismatics. The ANA helps all people discover and explore the world of money through its vast array of programs including its education and outreach, museum, library, publications, conventions and seminars.

The Texas Numismatic Association is a non-profit educational, historical and scientific numismatic organization founded in January, 1960. To be a member is to have fraternal affiliation with numismatists of your state; to know their addresses and collecting interests; to have the honor of serving visitors with the names of collectors in their vicinity; to participate in the annual convention; to receive the official publication. TNA membership offers prestige on the state level just as ANA offers prestige on the national and international levels.

Modern numismatics is the study of the coins of the mid 17th to the 21st century, the period of machine struck coins. Their study serves more the need of collectors than historians and it is more often successfully pursued by amateur aficionados than by professional scholars. The focus of modern numismatics lies frequently in the research of production and use of money in historical contexts using mint or other records in order to determine the relative rarity of the coins they study. Varieties, mint-made errors, the results of progressive die wear, mintage figures and even the socio-political context of coin minting are also matters of interest.

In the early days of coin collecting–before the development of a large international coin market–extremely precise grades were not needed. Coins were described using only three adjectives: “good,” “fine” or “uncirculated”. By the mid 20th century, with the growing market for rare coins, the Sheldon system was adopted by the American Numismatic Association and most coin professionals in the North America. It uses a 1—70 numbering scale, where 70 represents a perfect specimen and 1 represents a barely identifiable coin.