Coins and Medals
The Coins and Medals Department holds the national collection of coins and medals. The most significant part of the collection consists of coins from antiquity to the present day; however, our collection of medals is also exceptionally rich. Unlike coins, medals are not a means of payment. They are issued to commemorate important people or events.
The numismatic collections (> nummus is Latin for coin) include all coin-like items such as jetons, coin weights and even medals.
The Royal Library of Belgium’s collection has more than 220,000 objects:
37,000 commemorative medals
18,000 bank notes
14,000 medalets or jetons
2,000 coin weights and scales used by moneychangers
22,000 insignia and religious medals
24,000 miscellaneous objects (including Greek vases and Roman bronzes)
The collection of seal dies (1,310 items) has been transferred to State Archives in Belgium.
Exceptional objects in the collection
The Department holds the most important collection of coins and medals from the Southern Low Countries and a peerless ensemble of Celtic, Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins.
The collections of Baron Lucien de Hirsch and Count du Chastel are world-famous. The de Hirsch Collection consist of antiquities and Greek coins of exceptional quality, including the celebrated and unique tetradrachm, made in the Sicilian city of Aetna (5th century B.C.) and pharaoh Kamose’s dagger (1554-1550/49 B.C.). Count du Chastel’s collection contains some very exceptional Greek and Roman coins, including several gold Roman medallions. We also have one of the most important collections of Byzantine bronze coins in the world.
Knowledge centre for numismatics
The Coins and Medals Department has been commissioned to conserve our heritage, to study it and to expand it. However, its first objective is to be a leading centre of knowledge for everyone who is interested in numismatics. Thanks to its collection, the Coins and Medals Department of the Royal Library is one of the finest institutes of its kind in the world.
Part of the coins and medals collection can already be accessed via the main catalogue and we are working very hard to digitise everything. At the moment, you can access mostly Belgian historic medals, siege coins, religious medals, the coins from Liège and the Dupont Collection of bas-reliefs.
The staff of the Coins and Medals Department conduct scientific research connected to the collection and work closely with other institutes on research projects. We regularly organise academic symposiums attended by both national and international specialists, with which we stimulate research into monetary history.
Feel free to use the auction catalogues and sales lists of coins and medals held by the Coins and Medals Department.