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."


Royal Canadian Mint's Maple Leaf bullion coins

The Royal Canadian Mint introduced its .999 fine gold Maple Leaf in 1979 in 1-ounce, quarter-ounce and tenth-ounce sizes.

The Canadians did not overlook the success of the South African Krugerrand or the failure of the American Arts Gold Medallions program. The Canadians studied the U.S. experiment and did extensive market research in the United States—potentially their largest single market at start-up. The study showed that a legal tender status coin with reeded edges was what the public wanted.

The Royal Canadian Mint introduced its .999 fine gold Maple Leaf in 1979 in 1-ounce, quarter-ounce and tenth-ounce sizes. The composition was changed to .9999 fine in 1982, making the Maple Leaf the purest gold bullion coin in the world.

Production of the Maple Leaf gold bullion coins has at times consumed more than half of all the gold produced by Canadian gold mines.

MORE: CoinWorld.com's precious metals basics

In 1985 sales of the Maple Leaf reached 1.878 million ounces, an 87.4 percent increase over 1984. This amounted to a 65 percent share of the worldwide market for gold bullion investment coins in 1985. Bans on importation of the Krugerrand and other government and private sector sanctions against South Africa played a major role in driving the gold-buying public to the Maple Leaf.

In June 1986 the Maple Leaf half-ounce gold bullion coin was introduced. (Denominations assigned to the coins are $50 for the 1-ounce coin, $20 for the half-ounce coin, $10 for the quarter-ounce coin and $5 for the tenth-ounce coin.)

To try to capture some of the silver bullion coin market dominated by the United States’ American Eagle silver dollar, Canada began issuing a silver Maple Leaf, and upped the ante to include a platinum series, both introduced in 1988. The original silver coin is a 1-ounce piece, though Canada has issued several different sizes over the years, often to mark special occasions.

Canada introduced a platinum Maple Leaf program in 1988, eventually offering tenth-, quarter-, half- and 1-ounce coins. Canada stopped issuing platinum bullion coins in 1999 as mintages decreased annually.

In 2007, the Royal Canadian Mint introduced Maple Leaf .9995 fine palladium 1-ounce coins, after experimental palladium strikes conducted two years prior. Palladium bullion coin production has continued since.

Canada has marketed various special bullion coins. The Canadian Timber Wolf .9999 fine silver half-ounce coin was first struck in 2006, then reintroduced in 2010 in a 1-ounce size as part of a Wildlife silver bullion coin series. Plans call for two coins to be issued each year over a three-year period. 

The Royal Canadian Mint does not sell its bullion coins directly, instead offering them through a network of dealers and distributors, for a varying percentage above spot price, depending on the order size, similar to the U.S. Mint’s system of distributing its American Eagle bullion coins.

The above is an excerpt from the eighth edition of the Coin World Almanac, published by Amos Media Company in 2011.

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.