The 16th International Numismatic Congress will take place in Warsaw in September 2022. The event attracts scholars, archaeologists, historians, numismatists, curators of coin collections, auction houses and dealers from five continents. It is organized under the auspices of the International Numismatic Council, the main organizer is the University of Warsaw. The Samlerhuset Group is the major sponsor of the Congress.

We are talking about upcoming congress with Professor Aleksander Bursche from the Warsaw University:

Professor Aleksander Bursche, Warsaw University

What is the principal aim of Numismatic Congresses? What are some of the highlights from past events?

For 130 years, Numismatic Congresses have been organised with the principal aim of sharing the newest discoveries and research results with an international community. These have for six years been summarised in the accompanying volume of Survey of Numismatic Research, which will this time be issued in summer, as a digital publication accessible online. One aspect that deserves attention is the involvement of large numbers of young students of numismatics, whom the Congress provides with an important opportunity to establish contacts and make personal acquaintance with the most prominent experts in the field. Such contacts often result in finding employment in the numismatic profession; auction houses in particular like to ‘fish out’ young professionals during the Congress. Previous congresses were full of interesting events. In Madrid, for instance, the Congress’ participants were invited for a private tour of the State Mint and of the Archaeological Museum, on the very day it closed; a similar night tour was organised in Glasgow; while in Taormina on Sicily the Congress participants could enjoy an unforgettable concert of historical music in the spectacularly located ancient Greek theatre overlooking Mount Etna.

Who participates in the congresses?

The Congress’ main participants are professional numismatists, representatives of various historical disciplines, especially academics and custodians of museum collections, but also employees of banks, mints and auction houses, as well as collectors. In recent years we have also been joined by a large group of scientists involved in various numismatic analyses, most notably experts in archaeometallurgy and information technology. Thus, it is an event that combines science with hobbyist passion. One might also add that the percentage of women participating in the Congress has increased substantially in recent years; in Warsaw they will already be the majority. 

This year the Congress will for the first time be organised in Central-Eastern Europe. Is this a landmark event for our region?

Most certainly so. Due to various reasons of political or financial nature, representatives of the countries in the region were thus far very limited in their possibilities to participate in Congresses that took place, for instance, in New York, Washington or Bern, sending only small deputations. This year, owing to stipends provided by private sponsors and a grant from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, we expect to welcome many more representatives not only from Poland, but also from Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic countries. For the first time, it the main focus of the event will shift from Western Europe and the Mediterranean to eastern regions, including the Far East. We may look forward to many fascinating presentations, important in the context of the history of not only the Polish Republic and its minting industry, but also e.g. of the Golden Horde, India and China.

What determined the choice of the Polish candidacy?

It was decided by a resolution passed unanimously by the General Assembly of the International Numismatic Council, during the previous Congress held in Taormina on Sicily in 2015. The fact that we were the only candidate stemmed from the very intense promotion we continued since the Madrid Congress in 2003, which intensified between the Glasgow Congress of 2009 and the Taormina one. I was personally involved in these efforts; at that time, my doctoral seminar on numismatics at the Warsaw University was attended by more than a hundred numismatists from all over the globe, many of them very renowned experts in the field. The promotional video sent to all participants of the Congress also played an important part: 


Please say a few words about the organisers of the Congress. 

Since the first Congress, held in Brussels in 1891, the event has been organised mainly by the mentioned International Numismatic Council, curretly based in Winterthur in Switzerland. It is the world’s largest association of institutions dealing in numismatics. The principal organiser of this year’s congress, held in Poland, is the Warsaw University, in cooperation with the National Museum in Warsaw, the National Museum in Krakow, the Royal Castle in Warsaw, the National Bank of Poland and the Polish Numismatic Society, which is an association of collectors. The organisational centre of operations is at the Warsaw University’s Department of Archaeology; the entire Congress is managed by Mazurkas Travel, an institution with many years of experience in organising international events of similar nature. 

What are the main topics of discussion for this year’s Congress? 

The organisers do not influence the range of topics discussed at the Congress; their only concern is maintaining a high academic level of the presented material. We have just closed the call for papers and posters. We have over 600 submissions, which is the highest number in the history of the Congress, although it is unlikely that all these submissions will be accepted by the International Scientific Committee. Their content indicates that a full range of topics related to professional numismatics will be covered at the Congress; however, the speakers traditionally tend to favour the Antiquity and the Middle Ages more than the early-modern and modern period. The geographical scope covers almost the entire world, with Europe and the Mediterranean dominating, although a large number of papers and posters also pertain to Asian regions (most notably Iran, India and China), the Americas, Australia and Cuba. The number of submissions from the USA was particularly large. Many  presentations will focus on the history of collecting and of particular collections; iconography; numismatic finds, including many coins recently recovered from shipwrecks; the circulation of money; inflation and other economic issues; various subjects related to research methodology; medals; token coins; banknotes; substitute currency, etc. A particularly large number of sessions and panel discussions at the Warsaw Congress shall be dedicated to the extremely fashionable and rapidly developing field of digital numismatics, online databases, digitalisation and digital image identification, as well as various technologies and results of metallographic research.

Will any interesting numismatic items be issued in connection with the Congress?

It has become a tradition for a special-edition medal to be issued to commemorate the Congress. The winner of the contest for this year’s medal is the renowned Polish medallist Mr. Robert Kotowicz; his design may be seen here: Two versions of the medal will be made: in silvered tombac and in gilt silver. They will be distributed among Congress participants following preorders. Occasionally, a commemorative coin was also issued in connection with the Congress – most recently during its Madrid edition in 2003. This year’s edition will also feature such a coin: the National Bank of Poland will issue a 50 zloty silver coin with a bust of Joachim Lelewel on the reverse. Unfortunately, these are all the details I can disclose at the moment.

Where will the Congress be held?

For the entire duration of the event, i.e. between 11th and 16th September, the Congress Centre will be located at the historic campus of the Warsaw University, at 26/28 Krakowskie Przedmieście Street, by the so-called Royal Route near Warsaw’s Old Town. The sessions and panel discussions will be held simultaneously in three historic buildings: the Auditorium Maximum, the Main School and the Old Library Building. A publishers’ fair will be organised at the Column Hall of the Department of History. The Congress and its main events will be broadcast via a digital platform accessible online to all registered participants. 

There is an interesting programme of additional events connected with the Congress, including several exhibitions. What can we expect? 

The opening of the Congress will be celebrated with a Chopin music concert at the Auditorium Maximum, followed by a welcome cocktail at the Kubicki Arcades of the Royal Castle. The castle is also preparing a special exhibition featuring items formerly owned by the prominent Belgian collector André van Bastelaer, and an English-language catalogue thereof. The Old University Campus will host three exhibitions. The one entitled Two hundred years of numismatics at the Warsaw University is prepared by the Warsaw University Museum and will present the prize items in Polish collections. Another one, to be seen at the Tyszkiewicz Palace, will be dedicated to the history of Polish collections. The last one will feature exhibits from the Polish Numismatic Society. The National Museum in Warsaw is also organising an exhibition, related to the centennial anniversary of the establishment of its Department of Coins and Medals. The National Museum in Krakow and in Poznań will hold their own exhibitions. The Congress will be a great celebration of Polish numismatics, also featuring specialised thematic tours of Poland. Moreover, the Emeryk Hutten-Czapski Museum (a branch of the National Museum in Krakow), in cooperation with the Belgian Numismatic Society and the Royal Numismatic Society of Belgium, will organise an academic session dedicated to one of the most prominent Polish numismatists – Joachim Lelewel. The session will take place before the opening of the Congress, at the Krakow headquarters of the Museum 

Who can take part in the Congress and how can one apply? 

In practice, the Congress may be attended by anyone who takes an interest in numismatics. They must, however, fill in the registration form accessible on the Congress website and pay the participation fee. Congress participants will be entitled to attend all accompanying events and granted free entry to all exhibitions held by the co-organisers of the event. 

By way of conclusion, let me add that the next Congress is planned to take place in six years’ time in Athens, although the final decision shall be taken in September this year, at the General Assembly of the International Numismatic Council in Warsaw.