This department was established based on the collection of coins and medals of the Imperial University of Moscow, a collection that has been compiled since the school's foundation in 1755. In 1812 the university's numismatic collection was given the name of Munzkabinett. In the middle of the 19th century, Munzkabinett was a part of the Museum or Cabinet of Fine Arts and Antiquities, which was opened in 1855 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the university.
By the end of the 1880th Munzkabinett contained approximately 20 thousand items. In 1888 the Russian part of the University numismatic collection was transferred to the Moscow Historical Museum. In 1912 a new museum building on Volkhonka street was opened as the Alexander III Museum of Fine Arts. The collection of Classical, Byzantine, Oriental and Medieval coins and medals of the University's Munzkabinett now came under the Sculpture Department of the new museum. In 1924 approximately 1,500 Greek and Roman coins from the Institute of the Classical East were acquired, which had been formerly belonged to the professor of philosophy Vasilii Rozanov (1856-1919).
In 1937 the museum was renamed as the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and became independent from the University of Moscow. It has continued to grow. A notable donation to museum was the collection of Alexander Golikov (1865-1940), which was exceptional both in size and quality since it numbered 10,618 coins and gems.
In 1945 Munzkabinett was reorganized into the Numismatic Department. An entire row of other interesting collections were received or purchased by the museum from owners who had specialized in the collecting of specific groups of numismatics.
In 1966 and 1971 museum acquired over 5000 items – a part of the Evgenii Pakhomov's (1888-1965) collection of Russian and Oriental coins. He was a known archaeologist, numismatist and one of the organizers of the Azerbaidjan Museum of History. Among recent acquisitions (1983) attention should be paid to 401 medals on the events of the epoch of Peter the Great from Alexander Stakhovich (Paris).
The depositary of the department subdivides into 4 main sections: Ancient, European, Russian and Oriental. At the present time the collection totals over 200 thousand items - both plaster casts of engraved stones (Lippert's Dactylioteca, J.Tassie's Cabinet), copies of medals and coins (over 50,000) and originals: