With over 500,000 objects, the Münzkabinett (Numismatic Collection) is one of the largest coin collections worldwide. It is renowned for its rich variety and the continuity of its coin series, ranging from the dawn of minting in Asia Minor in the 7th century BCE to its collections of coins and medals from the 21st century.
The Museumsinsel Berlin is a true paradise for all coin enthusiasts with over 5,000 coins and medals of the highest quality on display in four out of the five magnificent buildings on the island. The representative selection of the Münzkabinett’s treasures is exhibited in the Bode-Museum since 2006, while a collection of more than 1,400 ancient coins has been on permanent display at the Altes Museum since 2011. These prime examples of ancient coinage are the perfect complement to the exhibition of artefacts from the Antikensammlung. Choice objects from the numismatic collection also enrich the exhibitions at the Neues Museum and the Pergamonmuseum.
Amongst the most significant holdings of the collection are 102,000 coins from ancient Greece and about 50,000 Roman coins, as well as 169,000 European coins from the Middle Ages and the modern era, and 30,000 Islamic and oriental coins. The Münzkabinett also owns 32,000 medals, an art form that developed in the 15th century.
In addition to coins and medals, the Münzkabinett boasts a collection of historic seals dating from the Middle Ages onwards, as well as examples of paper money and primitive forms of currency. The museum also owns more than 20,000 tools and instruments, including 12,000 dies, which were used to mint coins and medals in Berlin and Germany from the 17th century on, as well as an extensive collection of casts and moulds.
The motifs imprinted on the coins vary considerably although various themes recur throughout the centuries, such as religious subjects from ancient mythology and Christianity, coats of arms, animals, plants, buildings and famous personalities.
The origins of the Münzkabinett (Numismatic Collection) can be traced back to the art cabinets of the Electors of Brandenburg in the 17th century. By 1649 the collection had grown to 5,000 coins, mostly from antiquity. The Münzkabinett moved into its own rooms in the first public museum in Berlin in 1830, which today houses the Altes Museum. The collection thus became accessible to the general public for the first time.
In 1868, the collection was awarded the status of an independent museum and its holdings were significantly expanded through numerous purchases and the acquisition of large private collections up to the end of the German Empire in 1918. In 1904 the collection moved to the Kaiser Friedrich-Museum, today’s Bode-Museum, where the basement level along Kupfergraben was especially refurnished to meet the needs of the Münzkabinett.
The numismatic collection survived the Second World War in the air-raid shelter of the neighbouring Pergamonmuseum. From there it was seized and taken to the Soviet Union and only returned to Berlin in 1958. As the Münzkabinett was then located in East Berlin it became part of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin of the German Democratic Republic. When Germany reunited in 1990, it was incorporated into the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preussischer Kulturbesitz.
The Münzkabinett was the first collection to move back into the newly renovated Bode-Museum in 2004 when the study hall opened its doors for business. Since the official reopening of the whole building in October 2006, the Münzkabinett has been able to present its collection in four permanent exhibition rooms and one rotating exhibition. A display of ancient coins from the numismatic collection can be viewed in the 'blue vault' of the Altes Museum and selected items are also on exhibit at the Neues Museum.
Timeline of the history and development of the Münzkabinett up to 2004 [download in German as PDF].