The Museum Curator
Another profession that can involve numismatics is to be a museum curator. Many museums have coins among their holdings. Some museums have formal collections, however many simply have some coins mixed among other related artifacts. Only a few full-time museum curators specialize in numismatic collections. Most of these curators have graduate degrees in the humanities.
Function of Coins in Museums
Most museums only display a fraction of their holdings at any time. Part of this is due to time, space, and money, however museums also function as repositories. Many of the artifacts housed in museums are there so they will be available for further study at some later date.
Coins can be displayed by themselves, but they are often part of more encompassing exhibits. Some coins are acquired as gifts, others are purchased, while still others may have been part of the find at an archaeological dig site.
Many museums were established with major collections of something initially assembled by a collector or art connoisseur. There is an ongoing controversy regarding if private collectors should be allowed to own coins and other artifacts or if this takes away from a museum's ability to acquire these objects. Stifling antiquities laws in some countries have driven the trade in coins and antiquities underground, further depriving museums of the ability to acquire such objects.
Prominent Museums with Coin Collections
As was just mentioned, coins are often part of a larger exhibit rather than being the focus of the entire display as a collection. The following museums that are dedicated entirely or in part to coin collections may be of particular interest to collectors or to professionals seeking to become curators:
The American Numismatic Association located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the largest coin collecting organization in the world. The ANA has a museum specializing in coins, tokens, medals, and bank notes, with a full-time curator.
The American Numismatic Society in New York City is a scholarly organization specializing in numismatics. Its focus for years was ancient coins, but in more recent history it has made great strides embracing United States coins as well. The ANS has a highly educated full-time curatorial staff that conducts scholarly symposiums.
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has a numismatic collection and a full-time curatorial staff that supervises it. Budgeting is always a problem since it is a government-owned entity.
Other museums of importance exist for coins both in the United States and abroad. The British Museum in London, England, is likely the most prominent of these. Once again this museum has a highly educated full-time staff of curators that work with and study this ever-expanding collection.