Numismatics is an interesting area of study that looks at coins during the period when machines were used for minting, which runs right up to the 21st century. Sometimes people who study numismatics will take into account things that were used for currency before minted coins, including shells, gems, and precious metals that weren’t turned into coins, but for the most part, the study focuses on coins created between the 17th and 21st centuries.
People who collect coins for pleasure or profit need to be aware of the study of coins, but numismatics is also used in other areas. For instance, many archaeologists will also study the nuances of coinage, since coins can say a lot about a society’s leaders, economic system, and beliefs. Nowadays, though, many collectors study numismatics just for the fun of it and so that they can be on the lookout for coins that are more valuable than others.
Professional numismatists, or coin dealers, are well-versed in things like mint-made errors and varieties, things that make one particular coin more valuable than another one that looks almost the same to the untrained eye. If you were to deal with a coin dealer in order to find rare coins for fun or for investments, you’d want to be sure that the dealer knew a lot about numismatics, since this is the basic way that professional dealers determine the worth of each particular coin. Sometimes people who aren’t even interested in collecting coins personally – including historians and archaeologists – will consult with very knowledgeable coin dealers.