Containing almost 600,000 coins and medals, BnF’s numismatics collections provide a complete overview of the history of money, from its invention in Lydia in the early 7th century B.C. to the present day.
Coins are held in the Coins, Medals and Antiques Department, located at the Richelieu Library (Site Richelieu).
Greek coin from Syracuse. 400 B.C.
The Greek coin
collection consists of 120,000 coins.It was in the 18th century that the collection really expanded, when the Abbey Barthélemy, guardian of the Cabinet des médailles, negotiated the 1776 acquisition of the prodigious collection of numismatist Joseph Pellerin, the most extensive and valuable collection ever to be owned by a private individual.The Greek coin collection is available in Gallica, BnF digital library.
These coins are also listed in BnF catalogue général. Until a search form dedicated to medals is made available in the catalogue, the document below indicates how to find them.
The Roman coin collections are broken down into three sets:
- 20,000 coins from the Roman Republic, which form the first collection of this type at an international level
- the Roman Empire
- provincial Roman coins
BnF houses the national reference collection on Celtic numismatics, consisting of more than 13,000 coins. As well as a wide range of coins produced by ancient Celtic peoples, the collection preserves fragments of treasure which are critical to numismatic history. These include, for example, the Auriol Treasure, representing coins from Marseille, which includes the oldest coins found within France, and the Pionsat Treasure, representing the Vercingetorix coinage.
French coins are subdivided into three major collections:
- “royal” coins, which are the most numerous and include Merovingian and Carolingian coins, as well as Capetian coins from Hugues Capet to Louis XVI
- “feudal” coins
- “modern” coins, subsequent to 1792, which range from the livre to the euro
In addition to these series, the Library holds French monetary treasures, including in particular the important Fécamp Treasure, which includes a large number of Carolingian coins.
Royal medal. Louis XIV. 1665.
Although less extensive than its collections of French coins, the Library’s collections of western foreign coins
are significant, particularly for European countries. They include collections of Italian and Dutch coins, as well as a notable large collection of coins from the Latin Orient.
BnF holds an outstanding collection of more than 55,000 coins from non-European civilizations, known as “eastern coins”. The majority of these coins come from the Muslim empires and kingdoms of Asia and North Africa. The Far East is represented by coins from China, Vietnam, Japan, and Korea. There is a proportionally greater number of coins from Indochina, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand.
The collection of Sassanian, Kushan, Hephthalite, and Kidarite coins, from Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages, is one the world’s foremost collections in terms of quality and variety. Eastern coins also include fine collections of Axumite, Armenian, and Georgian coins.