Numismatist

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A numismatist is a specialist in numismatics ("of coins"; from Late Latin numismatis, genitive of numisma). Numismatists include collectors, specialist dealers, and scholars who use coins and other currency in object-based research. Although use of the term numismatics was first recorded in English in 1829, people had been collecting and studying coins long before this, all over the world.

The first group chiefly derives pleasure from the simple ownership of monetary devices and studying these coins as private amateur scholars. In the classical field amateur collector studies have achieved quite remarkable progress in the field. Examples are Walter Breen, a well-known example of a noted numismatist who was not an avid collector, and King Farouk I of Egypt was an avid collector who had very little interest in numismatics. Harry Bass by comparison was a noted collector who was also a numismatist.

The second group are the coin dealers. Often called professional numismatists, they authenticate or grade coins for commercial purposes. The buying and selling of coin collections by numismatists who are professional dealers advance the study of money, and expert numismatists are consulted by historians, museum curators, and archaeologists. See, for example, the International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) and the British Numismatic Trade Association (BNTA).

The third category are scholar numismatists working in public collections, universities or as independent scholars acquiring knowledge about monetary devices, their systems, their economy and their historical context. Coins are especially relevant as a source in the pre-modern period.

Training and recognition

There are very few academic institutions around the world that offer formal training in numismatics. Some may offer numismatics as part of a course in classical studies, ancient history, history or archaeology. Scholar numismatists may focus on numismatics at the postgraduate level, where the training is more research-based. As a result, most scholar numismatists will approach numismatics from within another academic discipline (e.g. history, archaeology, ancient or modern languages, metal sciences), perhaps after attending a numismatic summer school, usually based where there is an excellent coin collection. Recognition of scholarly numismatic expertise may be in the form of a postgraduate qualification, and/or in the form of a medal awarded by a numismatic society: for example, the Medal of the Royal Numismatic Society, which may be awarded to scholar numismatists of any nationality.

Donald H. Kagin earned the first PhD in Numismatics granted in the United States in 1979.

Numismatic institutes

Numismatic summer schools

Numismatic organizations (selection)

Biographical resources

As scholar numismatists work on coins (and related objects) within their particular area of interest (e.g. a particular part of the world, a particular period of history, or a particular culture), they are often known in those fields, as well as in numismatics. Biographical resources relating specifically to numismatists include the following:

  • Manville, H.E., Biographical Dictionary of British and Irish Numismatics, Encyclopaedia of British Numismatics. Volume IV (London, 2009)
  • Smith, Pete:, American Numismatic Biographies (1992).
  • "Numismatic Who's Who", in Coins Weekly.
  • de Callataÿ, F., Portraits of Famous Numismatists who died before 1800
  • de Callataÿ, F., Portraits of Famous Numismatists who died after 1800
  • Famous Numismatists - Les grands numismates, on the International Numismatic Council webpage
  • Encyclopedic Dictionary of Numismatic Biographies - focus on American numismatists
  • Numismatics - Biographical Information, on The E-Sylum

List of scholar numismatists