The Art Of Collecting Coins: A History Of Numismatics

A lot of old French silver coins with portraits of kings on the old cloth

Archeologists have chosen the path of rooting through vast amounts of laden soil, for clues and artifacts linked to our past. Finding anything from antiquity can be the highlight of a dig, and no other item can provide as much joy for a team of historians as coins. With coins, history and legends come alive, because coins are finite evidence of a location’s history: the culture, what civilization that inhabited the area, how they lived, when they lived there, and even when they left. Coins give clues to a society’s values, so the history of numismatics, which is the study and collecting of coins and currency, is in part a study of history, art, culture, and human society.

Coins as items of barter have existed since ancient times. Primarily cast in gold or silver, they have always held inherent value, but it wasn’t until the Renaissance that they were collected as works of art and historical study. Petrarch (1304-1374), an Italian scholar and poet, has been called the first numismatist because he made a study of history and coins. Later Renaissance coin collectors included Pope Boniface VIII, Emperor Maximilian of the Holy Roman Empire, Louis XIV of France, Ferdinand I, Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg, and Henry IV of France. Because of these early founders, numismatics is called the “Hobby of Kings.”

A large group of enthusiasts are those who study coins as art history, gathering information on trade and economics, mythology, leadership, military campaigns, and historical events. The analysis of coins is an art form in and of itself, with such terms as knowing the obverse (head side), reverse (tail side), legend (inscription), field (flat area), exergue (on the reverse side, often used for mint marks). Decoding the marks on ancient coins can be as thrilling as a mystery or a detective novel.

Later, as coins became more affordable to wider classes of people, coin collecting spread throughout the world. One way that a modern person can begin their very own numismatic collection is by collecting Pre-33 U.S. coins, which were minted before the government mandate that collected and melted down gold bullion and gold coins.

1911 United States $5 Indian Head Gold Coin and Natural Gold Nuggets1911 United States $5 Indian Head Gold Coin and Natural Gold Nuggets

One such coin is the $2.50 Gold Indian Quarter Eagle released by the U.S. from 1908-1915 and then again from 1925-1929. You can find the coin in CU, commercial uncirculated condition, right here at GMR.

If you would like to learn more about the hobby of kings, or would like to start investing in your own numismatic collection take a look at our Pre-33 collection or contact a Global Monetary Reserve precious metals expert at 877-795-9585.