The study of Numismatics, so termed from the Greek word Numisma, meaning “legal money” is the science pertaining to the coins and monies of all times, places and peoples, considered especially from their historical and artistic aspects, and by extension numismatic science embraces also the most important branches of archaeology, being an unfathomable source of precise knowledge concerning bygone persons and events, who albeit their living importance would have left but few traces behind them but for the coins which bear their names and effigies. The coins of the ancients are above all indispensable to students of mythology, comparative religion, government, the administration of justice, military equipment,commerce, industries, traffic, literature, customs and costumes of long vanished races. Beyond this, the examination of coins is of the highest importance to the history of Art and popular customs of all peoples.
From this definition it may be argued that the additional questions which suggest themselves with reference to the making of coins, such as their chemical composition, the variations in their weights and values, are unimportant to the collector, but in the same time the study of coins under even these dry aspects has furnished much valuable data to the scientific world. The pursuit of numismatic study is also a most potent stimulant, archaeology, paleography, epigraphy and heraldry. It is easy from these considerations to perceive that the study of coins, rightly engaged in, has a most elevating tendency, but for a moments reflection is necessary to show that poor success is to be anticipated from the study of ancient coins without the aid of mythology, or of medieval coins without comprehension of at least the rudiments of heraldry. Engaging in the study of numismatics is, therefore, an embarkment in the pursuit of knowledge of the most desirable character to the man or woman of culture. So far as young people are concerned, all that we’ve said applies to them with still greater force, because the study of coins furnishes to the young an incentive to the pursuit of erudition unparalleled by almost any other motive which could be suggested.
The old saw that “there is no royal road to learning” falls absolutely flat in the presence of the intellectual joys offered to young and old by the incentive to research presented by a handful of old coins, and so great is the fascination thereof have not pursued the numismatic hobby taken up in youth throughout their entire lives as there are many collectors of stamps, minerals, birds eggs and other classifiable impedimenta having completely abandoned all interest after a relatively short period of application. Another remarkable feature of coin collecting resides in being far more often a source of profit than of expense, for the enthusiast quickly learns to determine that which is common and plentiful and that which is rare and especially desirable, so that given the apathy of the rest of the world the majority whose inhabitants care as little about coin collecting as they do about Shakespeare, the opportunities for picking up gems in the open market are far more plentiful than would be imagined. The really knowing buyer is constantly able to add to his collection specimens which represent a more substantial profit upon his whole investment than if he were only buying for mercenary motives, and so judicious coin collecting, backed up by conscientious study, represents thrift and economy as well as pleasure, culminating in the eventual dispersion of a store of treasure thus amassed for the benefit of heirs or the collectors own pressing necessity at accumulative profit belonging to any other type of investment.
We might demolish another well worn proverb by stating that coin collecting furnishes the most brilliant example of the eminent possibility of both “eating ones cake and having it too.” Learned men in all parts of the world are ardent collectors, and the aristocratic classes of Europe prior to just this past half century probably held the record for the most scientific and far reaching pursuit of the possibilities of numismatic science. To name the great people of the old world who have been enthusiastic collectors would be to enumerate a catalogue of reigning sovereigns, great admirals, statesmen, public men, savants, and scientists which would fill a goodly sized volume. Up to within a few years, Europeans have probably led in the domain of classical numismatic science, but as one after another the vicissitudes of life bring the great European collections of Greek, Roman, and medieval coins into the market, it is noticed that the choicest specimens have been finding their way to the United States of America, which has always led more especially in the appreciation of “Americana” as the coinage of this country is popularly termed among it’s devotees.
To those who might upon trivial examination of the subject imagine that the outlets were so carefully watched that it would be almost as impossible for the location and character of the most valuable pieces to be unknown to experts as are the famous precious stones of the world it will come as a revelation to learn that there is scarcely an important sale in the country which does not bring forward desirable coins the very existence of which were unknown but a short time previously. The values of American coins have advanced in many cases thousands of percents. Accidental finds which at one point were far and few between, find themselves brought further into the limelight with the seemingly advancement of the pursuit of numismatics in a new generation of collectors and scholars of numismatists or those collectors who have started to form the foundations of an entirely new future of the hobby and investment and is in fact becoming a world wide phenomenon.
Open for me your cabinet of coins and I will show you the history of the world.