A numismatist is a specialist in numismatics ("of coins"; from Late Latinnumismatis, genitive of numisma). Numismatists include collectors, specialist dealers and scholars who use coins in object-based research. Although the term numismatics was first coined in English in 1829, people had been collecting and studying coins long before this, all over the world.
The first group chiefly derive pleasure from the simple ownership of monetary devices and studying these coins as private amateur scholars. In the classical field amateur collector studies have achieved quite remarkable progress in the field. Examples are Walter Breen, a well-known example of a noted numismatist who was not an avid collector, and King Farouk I of Egypt was an avid collector who had very little interest in numismatics. Harry Bass by comparison was a noted collector who was also a numismatist.
The second group are the coin dealers. Often called professional numismatists, they authenticate or grade coins for commercial purposes. The buying and selling of coin collections by numismatists who are professional dealers advances the study of money, and expert numismatists are consulted by historians, museum curators, and archaeologists. See, for example, the International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) and the British Numismatic Trade Association (BNTA).
The third category are scholar numismatists working in public collections, universities or as independent scholars acquiring knowledge about monetary devices, their systems, their economy and their historical context. Coins are especially relevant as a source in the pre-modern period.
Training and recognition
There are very few academic institutions around the world that offer formal training in numismatics. Some may offer numismatics as part of a course in classical studies, ancient history, history or archaeology. Scholar numismatists may focus on numismatics at postgraduate level, where the training is more research-based. As a result, most scholar numismatists will approach numismatics from within another academic discipline (e.g. history, archaeology, ancient or modern languages, metal sciences), perhaps after attending a numismatic summer school, usually based where there is an excellent coin collection. Recognition of scholarly numismatic expertise may be in the form of a postgraduate qualification, and/or in the form of a medal awarded by a numismatic society: for example, the Medal of the Royal Numismatic Society, which may be awarded to scholar numismatists of any nationality.
Donald H. Kagin earned the first PhD in Numismatics granted in the United States in 1979.
The Institute for Numismatics and History of Money Vienna (Austria)
As scholar numismatists work on coins (and related objects) within their particular area of interest (e.g. a particular part of the world, a particular period of history, or a particular culture), they are often known in those fields, as well as in numismatics. Biographical resources relating specifically to numismatists include the following:
Manville, H.E., Biographical Dictionary of British and Irish Numismatics, Encyclopaedia of British Numismatics. Volume IV (London, 2009)
Smith, Pete:, American Numismatic Biographies (1992).