Welcome to the third installment of our series, “Lunch with. . .,” where we interview some of the most prolific authors, collectors, and other noteworthy hobbyists in the field of numismatics — and satiate your appetite along with your hunger for knowledge! “Lunch with. . .” dives into the coinage-related aspects of some of the hobby’s most celebrated authors, and provides a closer look into their unique personalities and quirks. Let us know who your favorite hobbyist is in the comments, and they just might be the next for you to have lunch with!
Our third lunch is with collector, Red Book contributor, and numismatic bookseller David Fanning.
Q: What initially prompted your interest in the hobby?
A: A child at my elementary school brought a Whitman folder to share for “Show and Tell,” and something clicked. I don’t think I’d even noticed that coins had dates on them at that point. It appealed to the obsessive/compulsive aspect of the collector in me. But more importantly was that it made me track down a book about coins in our school library, which I proceeded to keep checked out for the better part of a year. I could have bought my own copy with what I ended up paying in overdue fees, I’m sure. It was the book that made me realize just how interesting coins could be, and how you could use them as a means to learn about the world—history, art, politics, geography, math, seemingly just about everything.
Q: What is your favorite key date or rarity coin?
A: I haven’t collected U.S. federal coins in years. I do have a special fondness for 1839 large cents because of the unusual number of types and varieties of that year. Higley coppers are a favorite.
Q: What’s your favorite restaurant—either where you live, or in a coin-show city?
A: Orchids at Palm Court in Cincinnati is wonderful.
Q: What is your favorite coin and why (U.S. or international mint)?
A: A lot of my favorite numismatic items are medals: the Libertas Americana medal may be my favorite, though I love the Annapolis Tuesday Club medal. An NE shilling would be tough to beat if you want to stick to coins.
Q: What is your favorite metal for coinage (copper, gold, silver, platinum, palladium, etc.)?
A: Copper. I like how it ages. And I like coins that were used in circulation, as part of everyday trade. A lot of gold coins throughout history have simply been used to store value, which I find much less engaging.
Q: What’s your favorite meal to prepare (at home, if you cook)?
A: My favorite recipe is the phone number for the local Indian restaurant.
Q: Do you think we are headed toward a cashless society? If so, how do you think this will impact the hobby or the Red Book?
A: We seem to be heading in that direction, yes, which I think is fairly awful in a number of different ways. There are ways in which this could be good or bad for the hobby. It could make people pay more attention to these “quaint” forms of money; at the same time, a lack of basic familiarity could lead to a loss of curiosity.
Q: What’s your favorite Red Book memory or story?
A: I can remember reading it in bed when I was maybe 12 or so and being fascinated by the eight reales that they opened the book with, though not really understanding yet why the Red Book began with a “foreign” coin.
Q: Do you have a favorite wine or other beverage?
A: Coffee. Black.
Q: Who do you look up to the most in the hobby?
A: Anyone whose approach is based more on how cool something is than how much it’s worth. I think it’s great when someone like Dave Bowers, who has obviously done very well for himself in the business end of the hobby, enthusiastically collects offbeat items like obsolete currency of New Hampshire and shell card tokens.
Q: If you had a chance to influence U.S. Mint policies or practices, what would you like to see change first?
A: They need to strike fewer low-denomination coins and consider eliminating them altogether.
Q: Are you a fan of dessert?
A: It doesn’t have to be part of dinner, but at some point in the evening I want chocolate of some sort.
Q: What’s something that most collectors, dealers, and other hobbyists might not know about you?
A: In my previous academic life, I did a lot of work on the Irish writer James Joyce, and have spoken at a number of conferences around the world on Joyce and his works.
Q: What is your favorite subject covered in the Red Book?
A: The colonials. I find them more interesting than most U.S. federal coins. I love pioneer and territorial gold coins, but can’t afford to collect them.