Numismatics is an ancient discipline. Julius Caesar is often credited with writing the first book on numismatics. Numismatics can include the study of many different things, such as history, geography, economy, metallurgy, or manufacturing of coins.
Modern numismatics is concerned with a wide variety of topics related to the history and usage of money. Numismatists differ from coin collectors in that collectors gain pride from ownership. Numismatists gain pride from gaining knowledge about monetary devices. This does not confuse the fact that many numismatists are also collectors and vice-versa. Walter Breen is an example of a great numismatist who was not an avid collector. Farouk I of Egypt was an avid collector who had very little interest in numismatics. Harry Bass is a tremendous example of someone who excelled as both a collector and a numismatist.
The numismatist may seek knowledge of how money was used or thought about in a historical context. Numismatists may study details of coin production at a particular place and time, they may study minor die varieties in coins in order to determine their relative rarity, or the die progression as the dies are worn and used. They may also study mint-made errors, or other differences from coin to coin. They may study mint records or other historical documents to attempt to understand the historical context in which monetary devices were created or used. They may attempt to understand the mintage numbers reported by a mint in an attempt to put rare coins into context. They may try to understand the political history around the release of a particular numismatic item. They may study private mints and their history. In sum, there is very little about money that is not a valid numismatic field of study.
Professional numismatists may authenticate or grade coins, prepare historical context of coins in preparation for auctioning a piece, assist historians and archaeologists or simply serve the collecting community.
See also: List_of_numismatic_topics.