Numismatics and History

Classic Pamphlet

Philip Grierson, last updated: 15th June 2009

The Science of Money

Numismatics may be defined as the science of money in its physical aspects. It is only indirectly connected with the theory of money, which belongs to the sphere of economics. Its subject-matter consists of the material objects which in most societies are used to measure the worth of goods and services, and consequently to facilitate the exchange of commodoties and act as a store of value. Where there is only barter, or where the transactions are carried out on a credit basis, there can be no numismatics. It is immaterial wheher the objects used as the basis of commercial dealings are goats or iron rods or silver coins or paper bank-notes. Usually they are made of metal, and their issue is authorized or controlled by the state, but neither of these condition is essential; numismatics takes cognizance of cowrie shells and bank-notes, of the coinage of the Merovingian Franks and the tarde tokens of seventennth and eighteenth-century England. What is essential is that the objects in question shall serve, or can serve, for purposes of evaluation or exchange.

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