Numizmatichar AR Nos 1-20 by the Belgrade and Serbian Numismatic Society
We were recently introduced to one of our booksellers, located in Gahanna, Ohio. We love to meet and learn about all of our sellers and this was no exception. Their store is called Kolbe and Fanning Numismatic Booksellers. For your information, “numismatic” does not refer to a new-fangled type of exercise, as I thought, or an automated breathing machine, as I also thought. Rather, the term numismatics refers to the practice of studying and collecting currencies such as coins, tokens, paper money, medals, but most often refers specifically to the collection of coins.
And of course, like any hobby or area of interest, there are bound to be books on the subject – price guides, collecting tips, information of all kinds, and guides to numismatic events across the globe, past and future. This is where the love of books meets the love of coins, and Kolbe and Fanning just so happen to be the largest and longest currently active rare numismatic literature in the world.
I’ll let the experts tell you more – this is David Fanning of Kolbe and Fanning, who graciously agreed to answer some of our questions.
Celtic Coinage of Britain by R.D. Arsdell
AbeBooks: How do the worlds of coin collecting and book collecting cross-over? Do they naturally go hand-in-hand? I guess research is a key aspect of coin collecting.
David Fanning: You answer the question best when you say that research is key to successful coin collecting. The coins can only tell us so much. To learn more about them, we need to delve into their history. This can involve reading primary documentation (royal edicts, reports of the Secretary of the Treasury, mint reports, etc.) or the voluminous secondary literature (well over 100,000 books have been published in the field of numismatics). Most of our customers are “coin people” rather than “book people,” though there is some cross-over. And there are occasional antiquarian numismatic titles of interest to bibliophiles with no particular interest in numismatics.
Abe: For how long have coins been written about in literature?
DF: Numismatics developed as an area of study during the Renaissance. Guillaume Budé’s 1514 De asse et partibus eius is considered the first book devoted wholly to the serious study of coins.
Abe: What subjects are covered in numismatic literature? History, catalogs, regional coin lists, photography?
Descriptive Catalogue of a Cabinet of Roman Family Coins Belonging to The Duke of Northumberland
DF: All this and much more. Serious numismatics involves the interplay of economics, history, art, metrology, iconography, geography and so on. Good photographic-quality illustrations are highly desirable, especially given the need to establish provenance for specific examples of (usually high-end) coins.
Abe: Are books about coins from certain eras (ie Roman or Elizabethan) more popular than others?
DF: Books about ancient Greek and Roman coins are very popular, as are works on U.S. coins. We cover all languages and all periods. The popularity of the books usually reflects the popularity of the coins, and can be affected by the current coin market. For instance, pre-Soviet Russian numismatic books have been very hot for a few years now, reflecting the active coin market in that area.
Abe: How many other booksellers around the world specialize in books about coins?
DF: There are probably only half a dozen full-time numismatic booksellers, all told. It’s a nice niche market, but a small one requiring specialized knowledge not only of the books but (to some extent) the coins.