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."


New U.S. Mint bullion issues: Precious metals basics

The Mint began striking American Buffalo 1-ounce $50 gold bullion coins in 2006.

The decade beginning the 2000s saw the introduction of three new series of bullion coins from the U.S. Mint and the authorization of a fourth.

The first new bullion coin program made its debut in 2006, when the Mint began striking American Buffalo 1-ounce $50 gold bullion coins under authority granted in the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005. These first .9999 fine gold coins of the United States have been struck by the U.S. Mint from 2006 to present. The Mint has produced bullion and collector versions of the American Buffalo gold coins: 1-ounce Proof and bullion versions every year from 2006 to 2010; and collector (Burnished) Uncirculated 1-ounce, half-ounce ($25), quarter-ounce ($10) and tenth-ounce ($5) coins in 2008 only.

All of the American Buffalo gold coins are struck at the West Point Mint, but only the collector versions bear the W Mint mark.

RELATED: U.S. Mint's American Eagle bullion coins

The second new bullion coin program was also authorized under the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005. Under the act, First Spouse gold $10 coins were first struck in 2007 to coincide with the Presidential dollar coin series. Though many in the hobby view them as commemorative in nature, the authorizing legislation defines them as gold bullion coins.

In 2010, in conjunction with the America the Beautiful quarter dollar program commencing that year, the U.S. Mint struck the third new program: America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver bullion coins. Though officially denominated as “quarter dollars,” the 3-inch-diameter coins were intended as investment pieces. The designs of the bullion coins match the designs of the quarter dollars, though instead of the quarter’s reeded edges, the 5-ounce bullion coins have smooth edges with an incused edge inscription reading .999 fine silver 5.0 ounce.

What does the future look like for U.S. bullion coins? While silver, gold and platinum coins will likely continue to be struck, collectors can look forward to bullion coins in a new precious metal—

The American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act of 2010 (H.R. 6166) was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 14, 2010. It calls for the production of a 1-ounce .9995 fine palladium coin, denominated $25. The source material is to be mined from natural deposits in the United States purchased within one year from when the ore was mined.

MORE: CoinWorld.com's precious metals basics

Production of the new bullion coins, however, is contingent on completion of a study ensuring that the coins can be produced and sold with no net cost to American taxpayers.

The coins would be struck in both Proof and Uncirculated finishes, but “the surface treatment of each year’s proof or uncirculated version [must differ] in some material way from that of the preceding year.”

The obverse would be a high-relief likeness of the obverse design of the Winged Liberty Head dime of 1916 to 1945. The reverse is slated to bear a high-relief version of the reverse design of the 1907 American Institute of Architects medal, along with the legally required inscriptions on both sides. The obverse and reverse designs to be duplicated on the palladium coin were originally designed by sculptor Adolph A. Weinman.

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.