The SHM Numismatic collection began to form in the early years of the museum existence from separate donated objects and small collections. Soon it commenced to expand steadily, often by purchases. Over the period from 1886 to 1917, the museum acquired: Russian coins collection of the national numismatic science founder A.D. Chertkov, collection of P.O. Burachkov – the famous collector and researcher of the Northern Black Sea Region coins, a variety of items from the splendid collections of P.I. Shchukin, G.A. Stroganov and A.S. Uvarov. It was the Imperial Archaeological Committee that participated fully in the creation of museum’s collection and thanks to which many wonderful treasures of Russian coins were acquired by the Museum. From 1895 the mandatory samples of productions issued by national mints started coming to the museum. The entire numismatic collection was supervised by the chief curator A.V. Oreshnikov – an outstanding specialist in the field of Russian and Ancient Numismatics.
The private property expropriation initiated in the wake of 1917 October Revolution paved the way for rapid expansion of the numismatic collection where confiscated collectibles were flowing in. Many people voluntarily donated their collections to the museum, driven by the hope for saving historical treasures from perishing.
The Department of Coins, Medals and Stamps was launched in 1918-1919 because of the transfer of the vast collection of oriental coins and Russian medals belonged to the greatest Moscow collector P.V. Zubov. It was A.V. Oreshnikov who headed the Department. In his turn, P.V. Zubov was appointed manager of the unit that was located right in his house in Malaya Alexeevskaya St. After the decease of P.V. Zubov (in 1921), his numismatic collection (200 thousand coins in 14 safes) and library (in 30 safes) were carried over to the Museum’s Main Building.
After the establishment of the independent Department of Coins, Medals and Stamps, its collection was enriched by collections of shut-down Moscow Numismatic Society, Museum of the Book, Soviet Philatelic Association and the Museum of Military History. Many interesting items were acquired by the Department from Gokhran (State Depository for Precious Metals). The Numismatic Department of State Hermitage also contributed to the collection growth: in 1930, one of the rarest Russian coins minted in 1825 was brought over into the SHM, it was the ruble of Konstantin, the “Emperor” who never reigned. Excavation materials and coin treasures were regularly poured into the Department. As a result, by the end of 30’s the SHM gathered a hefty numismatic collection that could be compared to the collections of coins, medals, bons, orders and decorations housed by British Museum in London, National Library in Paris, Berlin MunzKabinet (within the Berlin museums), American Numismatic Society Museum in New York, Smithsonian Institute in Washington and State Hermitage in Saint- Petersburg.
Currently, the State Historical Museum’s Numismatic Department holds over 1.7 million pieces, including doublets, Russian coins (upward of 600 thousand), ancient (58 thousand), Oriental (138 thousand), Western (188 thousand) coins, paper currency (471 thousand), national commemorative medals (38 thousand) and foreign commemorative medals (21 thousand), orders, awarded medals and decorations, both of Russian and foreign origin (over 27 thousand), seals and official stamps (more than 8 thousand). Russian currency circulation antiques, unique for their complete representation, make up the core of the collection.
During the period of 2006-2007 access to the Department collections was suspended because of general inventory controls.