Did you ever wonder why coin collecting is called numismatics?

Let’s look at the definition (from

–noun (used with a singular verb)
 the study or collecting of coins, medals, paper money, etc.

Looking back in time, “numismatics” as the “study of coins” came into being in 1829. The noun was derived from the adjective “numismatic” which meant “of coins.”

In 1792, “numismatic” came from the French “numismatique.” The French term originated in 1579 from the Latin “numisma” (gen. numismatis) meaning “coin, currency.”

The Latin term began from the Greek “nomisma” meaning “current coin” and literally “what has been sanctioned by custom or usage.”

The Greek “nomisma” derived from “nomizein” which means to have in use, adopt a custom.” 

“Nomizein” came from “nomos” meaning “custom, law, usage.”

“Nomos” which sounds nothing like the “numismatics” had even earlier word ancestry.

And, being somewhat of a skeptic, how do we know this is true?

But back to the current definition, people mentally associate numismatics with only coins. From the definition, the term includes paper money, medals, gems and other monetary representations.

However, one internet source did say that even though one type of people used horses as their money, horses are not included in numismatics. However, those same people used lambskins as change, and the lambskins could be included in numismatics.

Maybe it’s simply that horses die. Their decomposing bodies would be difficult to collect and study. On the other hand, lambskins, provided they are properly protected, can last through time.

But, what if someone studies the fact that those people used horses and lambskins as their currency? Wouldn’t that be the study of money and be included under the definition of numismatics?

That’s a quandary….could be semantics…

Either way, hope to see you at the “numismatics” show on Sunday, January 17, 2010.