The Numismatic Library holds over 21,000 individual periodicals, 6,500 books and over 15,000 auction catalogues dealing with coins, medals, tokens and banknotes. It is accessible to all readers on the 4th floor of the Institute.
The Numismatic Society of London was founded in 1836 and its first librarian was appointed in 1845.
In 1903-04, the original Numismatic Society split into two organisations: the British Numismatic Society, which focuses on all forms of coinage, tokens, banknotes and medals relating to the British Isles and former parts of the British Empire, and the Royal Numismatic Society.
While the items in the Numismatic Library remain separately owned by each society, it is considered a joint library.
All items in the Numismatic Library are for reference only. No coins are held by the Numismatic Societies.
The two numismatic societies and their library were based in a number of locations over the years; in private accommodation, a room at Sotheby’s Auction House, the Royal Asiatic Society, the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Historical Society and in the British Museum to name a few.
In 1942, a fire caused by bombing of the British Museum resulted in the destruction of a portion of the numismatic library. What remained was relocated to St Albans for safety.
In 1949 arrangements were made to house the numismatic library in the Warburg Institute, at that time occupying part of Imperial College in Kensington. The British Numismatic Journal for 1949 marked the occasion:
It is with real pleasure that I am able to announce that an offer to house the joint numismatic library has been received from the Warburg Institute, which is situated in the Imperial Institute Building at South Kensington. The Institute has one of the most important (if not most important) libraries in the country on art and associated subjects. The numismatic section is weak, and the suggestion of a room should be made available for our two libraries was found to be of mutual benefit. The arrangements have still to be formally concluded, but if, as I hope, this is achieved, Members of the Society will enjoy the use of the vast resources of the Warburg Institute, a privilege that will surely be greatly valued.
The library was relocated along with the Warburg Institute's collections when the Institute moved to Woburn Square in 1958. It has remained at the Warburg ever since.