Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. While numismatists are often characterized as students or collectors of coins, the discipline also includes the broader study of money and other payment media used to resolve debts and the exchange of goods. Early money used by people is referred to as “Odd and Curious”, but the use of other goods in barter exchange is excluded, even where used as a circulating currency (e.g., cigarettes in prison). The Kyrgyz people used horses as the principal currency unit and gave small change in lambskins. The lambskins may be suitable for numismatic study, but the horse is not. Many objects have been used for centuries, such as cowry shells, precious metals and gems.
Today, most transactions take place by a form of payment with either inherent, standardized or credit value. Numismatic value may be used to refer to the value in excess of the monetary value conferred by law. This is also known as the “collector value.” For example, a collector may be willing to pay more than $2.00 for a United States two-dollar bill, given their low circulation.
Economic and historical studies of money’s use and development are an integral part of the numismatists’ study of money’s physical embodiment.
Money itself must be a scarce good. Many items have been used as money, from naturally scarce precious metals and cowry shells through cigarettes to entirely artificial money, called fiat money, such as banknotes. Modern money (and most ancient money too) is essentially a token – an abstraction. Paper currency is perhaps the most common type of physical money today. However, goods such as gold or silver retain many of the essential properties of money.