Where did the word “numismatics” come from? First documented as an English word in the early part of the 1800s, this word derived from a French adjective, numismatiques, which means "of coins." In turn, that word came from the Latin word for “coin.” The meaning of the word gets even more interesting when the Latin word gets traced back to the original Greek that it was borrowed from. After some iterations, the word came from the Greek nemō, or "I dispense or divide."

Numismatic

What is your coin worth?: Collector Basics

A coin's value is based on several items including: the coin (denomination, such as cent, 5-cent, dime, and so on), the year it was minted, the Mint facility where the coin was made and the coin's grade, condition or state of preservation.

Coin World offers several resources to help you determine retail prices for your coins. Online or in the pages of our monthly print publication, Coin World's Coin Values valuing analysts track and report more than 50,000 retail coin prices. Coin World's valuing analysts develop marketplace values and report market direction by monitoring a variety of sources such as public auctions, transactions at coin shows, retail ads, dealers' price lists, dealer-to-dealer trading and private collector transactions.

You must know a coin's grade to look up its value in a price guide. A grade is based on a scale of 1 to 70, with 60 and higher being reserved for coins in Mint State or Uncirculated condition. Proof coins are made differently from other coins and are graded differently as well. Any coin with wear on it, such as coins pulled from piggy banks or from change, would not grade Uncirculated. To determine a coin's grade, you can buy an illustrated book such as Coin World's Making the Grade: Comprehensive Grading Guide for U.S. Coins and learn about grading by matching your coin to the illustrations. 

You can also visit a professional coin dealer in your area (visit Coin World's dealer directory) or submit the coin to a coin grading service.


Community Comments

Numismatics is about more than just coins.

While many people use numismatics as a general term to refer only to the study of coins, this word actually refers to the study of all kinds of money. As such, it includes the study of coins and also paper bills, tokens, and other related objects that have been used as currency by various people throughout history, as well as noncurrency items like medals. Some kinds of money used at different points in history might surprise novice numismatists; for example, a culture might have used shells as a currency. 

Barter, or the trade of objects and services for other objects and services, has long been used in the marketplace and continues today. In some cases, the line between barter and currency still provides a topic of debate, but in most cases, articles about numismatics cover subjects like coins and paper money. Numismatics might become easier to comprehend by understanding the numismatic values of coins and paper money, and this refers to the value of a coin or note that is higher than the intrinsic or face value. In other words, this could also be called the collectible value. For example, a historical gold coin has an inherent value that is based upon its bullion value. It may also have a face value, or the actual value of the money assigned by the country that produced it. However, that same coin might be worth much more than the gold or the face value because it is rare, historically significant, beautiful, and/or designed by a famous artist.

Ultimately, understanding numismatics really depends upon understanding the nature of money. In the past, money might have been shells, gems, or precious metals. Today, most societies rely upon coins and paper money, but in this digital age, even that has begun to change as billions of dollars get exchanged every day electronically without the need for physical currency. Even more revolutionary, there are new digital currencies that have never been based upon any nation's physical currency. As it has in the past, it is likely that the study of numismatics will continue to evolve as currency evolves.