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."


American Eagle platinum coin: Bullion Bio

The coin: American Eagle platinum bullion coin

Struck by: U.S. Mint

Available sizes: 1-ounce; half-ounce; quarter-ounce; tenth-ounce (fractional versions last struck in 2008)

Denominations: $100; $50; $25; $10

First issue: 1997

Hiatus: From 2009 to 2013, no American Eagle platinum bullion coins were sold by the U.S. Mint. Sales resumed in 2014, and were expected to continue in 2015, though sales had not resumed as of March 18.

Design: The obverse design features a recognizable shoulders-up portrait of the Statue of Liberty. The reverse portrays a soaring eagle.

Erik Martin notes the designs in a profile of the platinum American Eagle program in the Oct. 4, 2010, issue of Coin World:

"The Statue of Liberty design of the obverse was sculptured by Mint Sculptor-Engraver John Mercanti. The reverse, featuring an eagle in flight above a rising sun, was the work of Mint Sculptor-Engraver Thomas D. Rogers Sr." 

How to buy them: Coin World Senior Editor Paul Gilkes wrote about the buying method in the Sept. 17, 2007, issue of Coin World:

"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: In the past the U.S. Mint has offered tenth-ounce, quarter-ounce, half-ounce and 1-ounce platinum bullion coins. Since the series' reintroduction in 2014, no fractional pieces have been sold.

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.