The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 19, Number 42, October 16, 2016, Article 4


Kolbe & Fanning partner Dr. David Fanning was interviewed by Charles Morgan on CoinWeek in a podcast published October 10, 2016. Here's an excerpt from the transcript. -Editor

CM: So how difficult is it to dig into the past in such a way where you are able to recall these colorful stories from the past?

DF: I don’t want to overstate, you know, I don’t want to sound like I’m overstating our importance here, but I see part of our job is being sort of an institutional memory of the hobby. I know for me personally, and I can speak for my partner George on this matter as well, it is the history of the hobby and the history of coin collecting in the United States (or in general) is, to us, just absolutely fascinating.

That’s not how people start out.

You know, you start out being fascinating by the coins and then maybe you start being fascinated by the literature. But as you start to really know the literature and you are able to see the connections between this book I’m looking at and the one that came out on the same topic 10 years before it and the one that drew upon it five years later, you start to see all these connections and the history of the hobby and its development comes alive for you. And it becomes very important to us. George and I, we both find that the history of numismatics has drawn so many fascinating characters, all sorts of different people. A lot of them are pretty quirky. They tend to accrue a lot of good stories. So part of why we write such often lengthy catalog descriptions is not just that we are long-winded and don’t know when to say when, it’s just, you know, we love telling these stories. They appeal to us as part of the reason that we like to collect and we have to think that we are not alone in that, that other people might enjoy hearing of these stories as well.

CM: What do you think has changed since your partnership with George has taken hold? In the market and your approach to it?

DF: The approach has only changed in the sense that we’ve had to adapt to the changing market. Our cataloging style has remained very consistent. We tend to write fairly lengthy descriptions. We get a lot of positive feedback about that. We both always have ongoing research projects. I write a regular column for the Asylum, which is the Numismatic Bibliomania Society’s publication on just whatever has been pricking my interest recently, and so I think our cataloguing style has remained more or less the same but the market has been changing a lot in the last several years. And from a business perspective, we have had to adapt to that.

CM: So how has the market changed, in your opinion?

DF: It’s become a little more complicated – it’s become a lot tougher too. Making a living selling numismatic books is not an easy thing right now. What we are really seeing is mostly overdue effects from the Internet. A lot of information that one used to have to buy books for is now available pretty readily online. That has had a real effect on things. And resources like the Newman Foundation’s Numismatic Portal has had a big influence because now a lot of this information that was kind of rarified and only in the hands of very sophisticated collectors who knew where to look for it, now its available for anyone to take a look at.

The bad side of that is that having access to that information may be enough for some people who used be customers of ours and who may no longer feel the need to buy the book if they can get the information elsewhere. The potential good side is, of course, that an entire generation is going to come about who will first be introduced to people like the Chapman Brothers, for instance, early 20th-century catalogers. Their first introduction to these sorts of works will be through the Newman Portal, and some segment of that group is going to like the idea of owning original copies of some of these things. But in the short term it has made selling certain types of numismatic books a lot more difficult.

Be sure to listen to or read the complete exchange. These interviews are wonderful and I encourage all readers to visit the CoinWeek site regularly for new episodes. -Editor

To listen or read the complete transcript, see:
CoinWeek Podcast #43: Numismatic Books Old and New with Dr. David Fanning (

For example, a video interview with John Kraljevich published October 7, 2016 discusses "Three Things You Should Know Before You Start to Collect Medals". -Editor

To view the complete video, see:
CoinWeek IQ: Three Things You Should Know Before You Start to Collect Medals (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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