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

American Eagle gold coin: Bullion Bio

The U.S. Mint's gold bullion program has been an option for precious metals buyers since 1986.

Images courtesy of APMEX

The coin: American Eagle gold bullion coin

Struck by: U.S. Mint

Available sizes: 1-ounce; half-ounce; quarter-ounce; tenth-ounce

Denomination: $50; $25; $10; $5

First issue: 1986

Design: Coin World Senior Editor Paul Gilkes described the obverse and reverse designs as mandated by the Bullion Coin Act of 1985 in the Sept. 17, 2007, issue of Coin World

"The act mandates a reverse design of a family of eagles, according to an article in the October 2006 issue of Coin World’s Coin Values magazine. The reverse design is of two adult and two younger eagles, and is intended to reflect American family values. The reverse design is credited to artist Miley Busiek, now known as Miley Tucker-Frost. The obverse design of Striding Liberty is a modified version of the original Augustus Saint-Gaudens classic portrait, which first appeared on the gold $20 double eagle from 1907 to 1933."  

How to buy them: More from Gilkes:

"The Mint does not sell the regular Uncirculated bullion coins directly to the public. Instead it sells the bullion coins to a network of authorized purchasers, who acquire the coins from the Mint for the spot price of the precious metal on a given day on the metals market plus a small premium. The authorized purchasers may then sell the bullion American Eagles to dealers and the public."

The U.S. Mint provides a web page collectors and investors can use to find dealers who sell the bullion coins.

Fun fact: The American Eagle tenth-ounce gold bullion is the smallest U.S. coin currently minted in diameter, Gilkes writes, smaller even than the dime. The coin's diameter is 16.5 millimeters, which is slightly smaller than the dime's. The gold coin weighs 3.393 grams (0.11 ounce), which is heavier than both the cent and dime. 


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.