A numismatist is a person who studies and/or collects coins, paper money, and related objects such as medals, awards and other objects used as instruments of exchange. Additionally, the numismatist will research the history pertaining to the objects he or she collects. Most commonly the word numismatist refers to a person that studies and collects coins. This can include coin dealers, researchers and historians that specifically focus on coins and paper money.
Collecting versus Accumulating
Many people collect a variety of different objects. This can include art, stamps, toys, rocks/minerals, quilts, baseball cards, comic books, dolls, beer cans, action figures, etc. What sets numismatics apart from other types of collections is that money has a certain universal appeal.
Many people have a jar or can on their dresser or countertop in which they deposit their pocket change every evening. This does not make them a numismatist nor a coin collector. This is more of an accumulation of coins rather than a collection.
A coin collector will spend time organizing their collection into specific categories. This may include type sets, date and mint sets, year sets, and commemorative coins, just to name a few. The coin collector will house their collection in albums, folders or organized into special cases. Additionally, the coin collector will catalog and label the coins in his or her collection.
The Collector versus The Numismatist
Although a coin collector will spend time and effort to organize their collection, the numismatist will move beyond organizing his or her coin collection. The numismatist will spend time researching the history of the coin and the history of the society around the time the coin was minted.
Many books have been written about coins ranging from ancient coins to modern United States coins. Additionally, there are many online resources that can provide you with the history of your coins.
This historical insight adds personal value to the collecting journey for the numismatist. If you think about it, when you hold a coin you are "holding history in your hand." A United States coin that was minted in the late 1700s may have been used by one of the patriots that led the Revolutionary War. In fact some coins can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin.
Research is an important part of becoming a numismatist. One way to know if you have advanced from a coin collector into a numismatist is if you have more books on coins then you have coins. Building a numismatic library that focuses on the types of coins that you collect will start you on your path to becoming a true numismatist.
A numismatist not only knows the value of the coin but also knows the history that surrounds it.