Systematic accumulation and study of coins, tokens, paper money, and objects of similar form and purpose. The long-held view that coin collecting began with the Italian Renaissance has been challenged by growing evidence that the activity is far more venerable. There exist a variety of literary accounts of collecting from ancient Greek and Roman sources, and there is tangible archaeological evidence that coins have been collected at least from the Roman era. Collecting was perhaps less important during the Middle Ages, but during the 15th–16th centuries it again became more popular, mostly among European aristocrats. In the 17th century the nature of collecting shifted slowly toward serious research. As a result, very broad collections were formed, studied, and catalogued. In the 20th century museums took over the main task of forming large collections of great detail and range. It was also during this time that a popular market for coins began to develop. Previously only the very wealthy purchased ancient coins and the number of sources were few. London became the world's largest numismatic market, serving the interests of public collections and private collectors in many lands. The Internet became an important aspect of coin collecting in the late 1990s, both because it afforded a virtual marketplace that permitted buyers and sellers from anywhere in the world to trade in coins and for the educational effect of the many Web sites devoted to the hobby. See also philately.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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