What is numismatics?
This is certainly a topic for those interested in the study of history, but it can be challenging for everyone since it really puts your knowledge to the test.
Numismatics, or in simpler terms, the process of studying ancient coins, currency or any other means of exchanging goods, is a way of discovering ancient civilizations and their value system in relation to the one we use today.
First historical mention
The geographical position and the era of the first coin ever to be made in the world says something about the root of civilization and the technological advancement of the people back then.
To our knowledge, the first hand-struck coins were found in Efesos, an ancient Hellenic city. It was close to 2,700 years old and one of the first examples of modern commerce techniques. It was manufactured from an alloy of gold and silver, and it stands as a testament to the power and culture of Ancient Greece.
Later on, the first city to emit a coin of its own was Florence, in the heart of Toscana, around the year 1252. It’s no wonder it went on to become the soul of the Renaissance in the later centuries, attracting bright minds from all over Italy and the world.
Also, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that numismatics became widespread during the time of the European Renaissance (that is the study of coins, not necessarily the collecting activity) because the historians of the time were trying to rediscover the roots of the classical world, through any means available to them.
Roots of the hobby
For many of us, it may seem as if this hobby is as contemporary as it gets since people have only been interested in studying the culture and behavior of their ancestors in later years.
However, you couldn’t be more wrong, since collecting coins has been a thing since the time of kings and queens, and it used to be a hobby reserved only for the royals and the bourgeoisie.
The first gathering took place much later, in August 1962, in Detroit Michigan. Close to 40,000 attended, showing the world how much of widespread interest numismatics is.
Nowadays it’s available for everyone, and the prices are not as high as you would expect. Most sellers will let you buy their collections for a little over their actual value. However, if you’re keen on studying the fine details, you might need some expensive equipment, like, for example, a good microscope for coins.
We all complain whenever it gets a little nasty weather-wise, but there’s nothing like having to bear through a tornado of silver coins! It’s a real fact, and it happened in Russia in 1940 at Gorky, where a storm lifted a money chest and proceeded to spread its contents all over the city.
One can only imagine the enthusiasm of the citizens after seeing the results of the so-called rain, but it’s hard not to feel sorry for the ones that got caught in the silver storm.
How would you like to learn more about the largest currency ever issued? It belonged to the Ming dynasty in China, and it circulated during their time of rule. As for the smallest currency, that belongs to Romania, and it was issued in 1917. They were called ‘paper coins’ and they still are the smallest banknotes ever designed.
Where can you find coins
The most obvious answer would be, of course, to hit the antique markets because that’s where the sellers dwell. Chances are if you search there, you’ll find convenient prices and unique models, that no one else might have.
If you’re a bit more at ease and you prefer going straight to the source, in the United States you can buy coins directly from the mint, for a slightly higher price than you would pay if you got them from another seller.
They have an entire catalog of the models that they carry, so you’ll have a wide range of options to choose from, which makes it worth the price.
However, for a coin collector to really know their craft, they will need more than just the items in their collection, they will also need some tools to handle them. For that, we recommend that you consider buying a reliable magnifying glass since it will help you observe the coins in a significant level of detail.
Do old coins actually smell?
It’s a common mistake to assume that if a lot of time has passed since a coin was issued, it will take on a sort of unpleasant smell. Research has been carried out, and it appears the metals and alloys used to manufacture coins have no scent of their own.
Instead, if they get into contact with the human skin, that’s when they’ll mix will the oils and create the familiar unpleasant smell that we associate with old metal. For this to be avoided, we recommend you only touch ancient coins while wearing protective gloves, to prevent the smell from being developed, as well as to prevent scratching their surface.
It might seem like a long shot, but in fact, it’s actually true. This hobby has been assigned to a Patron Saint, as a sign of recognition and appreciation. We’re referring to the Saint Eligius figure, a French citizen in the 6th century that was sanctified after death and is said to protect miners and metal workers.
An image of the past
Aside from teaching us about technological advancement and the economy of the society that they come from, coins also serve another important role that is often overlooked. They are frequently stamped with the features of the rulers of the time they were issued in.
Before modern face mapping technology existed, researchers would base their assumptions on the features presented on the coins when trying to reproduce the faces of worldwide famous leaders. They might be different from the ones we know today, but they were undoubtedly the starting point for this kind of research.