Numismatist refers to those individuals who study and often collect coins as well. These Numismatists are able to start with coins and then broaden their studies and collecting hobby to include other types of currency. Among these other types are paper money, jewelry, and some forms of bartered goods. There are two interesting approaches to studying numismatics. One can pursue it from a historical standpoint, a deductive approach, or both at once.
While coin collectors and numismatists are not exactly the same individuals, they can be sometimes. Some individuals only enjoy collecting coins and/or paper money. Others simply study them and do not collect them. Coin collectors may study coins, or they may simply enjoy and pursue the hobby of collecting them without going into detailed study of the metals.
On the straight collecting side, these coin collectors will search for, buy, and maintain collections of such coins. They often do this in an effort to gather up a whole set. Sometimes they are more interested in having a single example of different types of coins. While many Numismatists will gather up coins paying close attention to the country of minting, date of issue, and even denomination, they will often do this with a historical approach. In fact coin collectors will often pick up pieces without paying close attention to such details.
Those who are true Numismatists may or may not attempt to make a complete set of coins. For sure they will know the dates and periods of the pieces, the mints where they originated, and the history that underlies them. When they do collect them though, it is a more scientific approach to collecting than simply collecting coins for a hobby.
Numismatists will practice their craft and exercise knowledge over a range of currencies in many cases. This might include bullion issues and paper money as well. The role of a Numismatist is to study coins first and foremost. Because of this character trait, there are a range of organizations which exist to concentrate entirely on the study of coins, while still others focus on only collecting coins. In both cases, there will be useful information on collectible and rare coins provided and shared in such groups. Beyond this, trade shows occur around the United States, Canada, and Britain especially each year. They present excellent opportunities for Numismatists and coin collectors alike to broaden the depth of their knowledge.
What is interesting is that advantages to both simple coin collecting and being a Numismatist separately exist. Yet each practice has its significant and indispensible part in spreading the knowledge and appreciation of both coins and other forms of currency around the globe.
In the historical past, coin collecting and Numismatists were often a single discipline in which only the very rich could afford to indulge. For this reason, they call coin collecting today still the hobby of kings. In the United States, the hobby began to grow in the middle of the 1800s as the California Gold Rush led to the minting of interesting new U.S. gold coins. By the 1930’s the mint started to release commemorative coins in the U.S., which led to a larger group of collectors and Numismatists becoming involved.
In the 1970s and 1980s, a new element entered into the realm of U.S. coin collecting as the rise of the coin grading service agencies PCGS and NGC allowed for a standardization of coin grading. Thanks to this uniformity which came to the study and business of coin collecting at last, major money from Wall Street began to enter the coin collecting world. This helped to significantly grow prices and increase interest in the hobby which came into its own as a bona fide investment opportunity on a larger scale at this point.