Numismatic Literature Types

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The primary form of literature is, of course, the book. Books are typically focused on a particular subject, and written by one author or a small team of contributors. The most commonly used reference book for collectors of American coins is A Guide Book of United States Coins by R. S. Yeoman. A shelf of references on Latin American coinages is shown here.


Another important form of literature is the periodical. Typically published by an organization (business or non-profit), but sometimes produced by individuals. By their nature, periodicals are produced on a regualrly scheduled basis, such as monthly or quarterly. The longest running numismatic periodical in the U.S. is The Numismatist, published continuously since 1888 (shown here). The range of topics covered in a periodical is often very broad. Many times important research appears first in a periodical before being later produced in book form.


Catalogues are produced by collectors and dealers as an itemized list of specific items in a collection, auction, or mail bid sale. Early auction catalogs were no more than simple listings of auction lots with little or no detailed description, since their purpose was simply to be a guide for people attending the sale to bid in person. Later, as more and more people participated in sales by mail bid, catalogs became more elaborate, offering detailed descriptions, historical information, and illustrations. Current auction catalogs are among the products of firms such as Stack's and Bowers & Merena Galleries.


Ephemeral paper items are those, which by their nature, were intended for a specific short-term use, such as auction announcements, periodical subscription forms, and order forms for books and merchandise. Since most people naturally used them and threw them away, they are often quite rare today. Yet these items can reveal important research information as well as serve as intriguing souvenirs of bygone days.

Film Media

Photographs of numismatic items, as well as numismatists and numismatic events, are also important parts of the historical record. Film media also includes movies: for example, there are U.S. government films showing the operations of the Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing. And don't forget microfiche and microfilm - libraries store images of newspapers and other periodicals (such as The Numismatist) on microfiche.

Video Media

Similarly, videotapes, video imaging, and oral histories are also quite important. Many Numismatic Theatre presentations at A.N.A. conventions have been tapes for posterity. Also, the A.N.A. has an oral history program where they interview important hobby figures about numismatic events and people.

Electronic Media

Today, electronic media including web sites, e-mail, and databases are the newest forms of numismatic literature.