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."


Know your U.S. coins: Roosevelt Dimes

The Roosevelt dime has been the 10-cent U.S. coin since 1946.

Images courtesy of PCGS CoinFacts

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's sudden death of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945, compelled Treasury officials to recommend the late president's portrait to be immediately placed on a coin of regular issue without having to wait for the centennial of his birth as had been done with Abraham Lincoln for the cent.

The dime was one of only three circulating coin denominations available for use for the memorial without introducing special legislation. The other two were the Lincoln cent and the Walking Liberty half dollar. The Act of Sept. 26, 1890, permitted the Secretary of the Treasury to change the designs on circulating coins after 25 years without the need for congressional approval.

COIN VALUES: See how much Roosevelt dimes are worth today

Chief Sculptor-Engraver John R. Sinnock's adopted obverse shows a portrait of Roosevelt facing left, with LIBERTY along the border before his face. IN GOD WE TRUST appears below Roosevelt's chin, with the date to the lower right of the truncation.

There is some possibility that Sinnock actually adapted the design from two bas relief models black sculptor Selma Burke produced for a commissioned plaque before the president's death.

Sinnock's reverse design is not much different from Adolph Weinman's design for the Winged Liberty Head dime, except for the elimination of the fasces in favor of a torch and making the vegetation more recognizably an olive branch of peace.

The finished coin was rushed into production in January 1946 to coincide with the 1946 March of Dimes birth defects fund-raising campaign. The intimate connection the Roosevelt dime had with the March of Dimes and the war against polio is often misjudged by collectors.

Because of the need to produce dimes in sufficient quantity to be used in the infantile paralysis drive that year, the first year of issue was also the highest mintage of the dime struck in silver, with more than 344.1 million coins produced.

The key to the series is the 1949-S, even though more than 13 million were struck at the San Francisco facility.

With silver prices rising and supplies dwindling, Treasury looked at a number of compositional alternatives to reduce costs. The Coinage Act of July 23, 1965, resulted in the composition of the dimes and quarter dollars being changed to two layers of copper-nickel bonded to a core of pure copper. The half dollar was changed to a reduced silver clad composition.

All 1965-67 coins were struck at the various Mint production facilities, but none bear Mint marks. The omission of the Mint marks was a continuation of the Mint's misguided belief that collectors were responsible for the coin shortages of 1963-65. The Mint did not want collectors hoarding the new dimes and preventing their use in circulation.

From 1946 to 1964, the Mint mark appeared on the reverse, to the lower left of the torch, just above the E in ONE. Beginning in 1968, the Mint mark was moved to the obverse, above the date. The P Mint mark for Philadelphia Mint-struck dimes did not appear on the coin until 1980.

Not long after Sinnock's new dime design appeared in circulation on Jan. 30, 1946 (the anniversary of Roosevelt's birth), rumors were buzzing that the designer's initials, JS, located at the base of the trunk of the neck opposite the date, stood for Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union. The rumor indicated the initials were put there because of a pledge that Roosevelt had made to Stalin when the two leaders met along with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. The rumor had no basis in fact. The initials were to designate the design as the work of John Sinnock.

Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:

Cents and half cents:

2- and 3-cent coins:


Dimes and half dimes:


Half dollars:


Gold coins:

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.