Numismatics is the study of coins. It is important for the study of history, especially ancient history. It confirms, modifies and even amplifies history. To a great extent the political and economic history of a country is constructed by numismatics and historical facts are very often corroborated or rejected by numismatic findings. Many facts connected with administration, history, geography and religious history of ancient India are revealed to us by numismatics.

The Government Museum, Chennai has a very rich collection of the ancient, medieval and modern Indian coins made of gold, silver, copper, lead, potin and billon. Besides these there is a representative collection of foreign coinage.

The Museum had, upto 1865 AD, only a very small collection of coins in its cabinet. Under the Treasure-trove Act of 1878 AD all finds unearthed anywhere in the State are sent to this museum by the revenue authorities for examination and if decided that they are worth acquiring, they are acquired by the Government for the Museum. But treasure-trove hoards are not the only source through which coins are acquired. Most of the North Indian coins are donated by North Indian museums and institutions such as the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay, the Asiatic Society, Nagpur, the U.P. Coin Committee, Indian Museum, Calcutta and so on.

In the year 1976 AD, at the first floor of the Bronze Gallery, the Numismatics Section started a gallery of its own. It is not possible to exhibit the coins in original to the public on grounds of safety. Therefore plaster cast and metal cast impressions of the coins are prepared and exhibited in the gallery.

There are at present two hundred and fifty medals in the section, a majority of which are exhibition medals, of very little interest. The rare piece are the Mysore medals. The plaster cast of these medals are kept in the gallery with photographs. The collection includes a facsimile of the Great Charter of England, the Magna Carta of 1215 AD believed to be the only copy in India. It is displayed in the gallery for the public view.