Published Oct 28, 2019
One Fan's Mission to Acquire All Things Ferengi
We talk to Francis Scofield, a fan with one of the largest Ferengi costume collections in the world.
The Ferengi may value the Rules of Acquisition, but Star Trek fan Francis Scofield truly rules at acquiring Ferengi costumes and memorabilia. Always entranced by the profit-driven species, Scofield sought to own a screen-used treasure when Christie’s Auction House presented its massive sale centered upon Star Trek props in 2006. Of course, as any good Ferengi trader would confess, one possession is never enough.
Scofield’s small purchase quickly turned into a full-time hobby, ultimately blossoming into a personal museum that he refers to as “New Ferenginar.” The intrepid fan meticulously researches each item he manages to find and combs through hours of footage from the various series to identify the episodes in which each item surfaces. Taking a cue from the Seventy-Fourth Rule of Acquisition (“Knowledge equals profit”), Scofield catalogs his quest on his New Ferenginar blog.
The enthusiast’s endeavor has gained notoriety throughout Star Trek circles, which has resulted in some very unique opportunities. GQ Magazine contacted Scofield to dress up as a Ferengi and participate in a photo shoot with Captain Kirk actor Chris Pine for their December 2009 issue. And, Scofield even collaborated with beloved Ferengi actors Max Grodénchik and the late Aron Eisenberg when he loaned them some of their old costumes for a series of public appearances.
While Scofield’s intricate Ferengi costumes receive a significant amount of attention, his museum also consists of much more than fabric garments. A tongo wheel, beetle snuff container, Ferengi phaser, pieces of furniture, and the dabo table from Quark’s Bar all call his collection home. StarTrek.com recently had the opportunity to speak with Scofield about his journey and discuss a variety of Ferengi-related topics.
StarTrek.com: While your passion for Ferengi memorabilia is well-known, you also love Star Trek itself. How were you introduced to the franchise?
Francis Scofield: I am lucky enough to have a mother that was a bit kooky and was always into space exploration, the supernatural, other dimensions, Twilight Zone-y stuff. Because of this, my brothers and I spent much of our youth in the 1970s watching and enjoying every science fiction TV show on the air at that time. Star Trek was her personal favorite and it became mine as well. It's all her fault, really.
At what point did you realize that the Ferengi were of particular interest to you?
FS: When I saw Quark in his 'Cranberry Stripe' outfit. I watched him walk around with those amazing coattails and the match was lit. I loved the Ferengi and I wanted that costume. The Ferengi had so much character and they were showcased well on DS9. Ten years later, that very costume was proudly displayed in my living room… and my non-Trek friends thought I was mental.
The characterization of the Ferengi species evolved significantly from their initial appearances in The Next Generation to their prominent role in Deep Space Nine. Do you enjoy going back to examine their origins as a potential foe for the Federation?
FS: I can't say that I enjoy going back to their origins, as their first appearance in “The Last Outpost” is very cringe worthy. However, there was a major course correction over the next several times we saw them in TNG by generally making them more like opportunistic buffoons and also introducing a Ferengi scientist. However, I do own three of the Season 1 costumes, so maybe I like their origins more than I admit to myself.
Your fascination with Star Trek prompted you to purchase your first screen-used item. What inspired you to focus on pursuing costumes and props related to Ferengi characters?
FS: When I purchased my first Ferengi costume. I had seen them in all of the Star Trek series and enjoyed them already, but when you see and touch the actual wardrobe they wore, it is on a whole different level. The way Robert Blackman pulled together very different jacquard fabrics with colorful and sometimes wild patterns is nothing short of brilliant.
You have obtained your costume collection from a variety of sources. Can you give us an example of the process behind finding and acquiring these items?
FS: I was lucky enough to be on the ground level when the massive Star Trek auctions were happening, so a large chunk came from those auctions or from other people I knew that bought from those auctions. I have also bought items from Ebay and from people who worked on the shows. On occasion, I am contacted through my blog from someone with an item to sell, so you never know when something can turn up.
Your New Ferenginar blog is incredibly thorough. How much time do you spend researching the history behind each item?
FS: The research I do is mostly for my own curiosity and trivia, and it can take considerable amounts of time. Each costume is already special, but I Iove some of the minutiae like how many episodes was this worn in? Who made the fabric for a particular costume? Silly stuff honestly, but one must feed the addiction somehow.
Have you established a specific procedure for verifying a costume's authenticity?
FS: Star Trek costumes are generally easy to authenticate. While not a hard rule, most will have tags sewn in to the costume stating the show and the performer or character. On the occasion that a costume does not have any tags or verifiable provenance, screen matching is a great help, especially if the costume has a distinct pattern.
While your collection primarily highlights Ferengi garments, you have also brought together an impressive array of props. What compelled you to begin searching for those additional Ferengi-related items?
FS: When I bought the actual dabo table from the show. I didn't have space for it, so I passively bought it and a number of the neon lit tables and a dozen chairs. Once I set those up in my house, I got bit by the bug to get more. I was a bit late to the party for collecting Ferengi props, so I don't have a ton. Prop-focused collectors tend to be a bit more tight fisted with their collections and don't let their stuff go easily.
Are there any collectible pieces that have eluded you?
FS: Yes. The actual bar counter and shelving unit from the show. I want it very badly. It still exists and I have tracked its movements for years. During a face-to-face conversation with John Van Citters, I asked him, “How much, and whom do I make the check out to?” I was that serious!
You have met with many Star Trek actors, ranging from appearing in a photo shoot with Chris Pine to working with Max Grodénchik and the late Aron Eisenberg. What has been your most memorable collaboration?
FS: Memorable? While the examples you provided were most certainly great moments, I'm thinking making Max a new set of Rom teeth for his 'in costume' appearances. His original screen-used were lost or stolen at a convention years back, and the modified vampire teeth he was using were ghastly!
So I had him go to his dentist and get me an actual mold of his teeth, which he did. I then personally fabricated a set of wearable and accurate Rom teeth, but the process was grueling as I had never done anything like that before, and I didn't know anyone who could help me.
The tragedy is I only made one set, and maybe 6 months later he calls me telling me the hotel cleaning staff lost the top half of the teeth! I didn't have a second set to send, so in some of the photo ops he has great teeth and some he has just the lowers.
Considering the value that the Ferengi place on sharpening their teeth, it must feel very satisfying to be an informal dental adviser to the Grand Nagus.
FS: Informal dental advisor to be sure, but also helped to brainstorm ideas for the skits used by Rom and Nog [at Star Trek Las Vegas] And Rom is the Grand Nagus! I wanted to see a Grand Nagus Rom so bad that I brought him the screen worn cloak and cane for my photo op with him.
Where do you display all of the pieces you have collected? How many costumes are housed in "New Ferenginar" at this time?
FS: The pieces are proudly on display at my house. The construction, use of color, pattern, and texture are incredible, and I look at the costumes as a sculpture or piece of art. How many? I haven't counted, but dozens is about right.
While it is surely a difficult choice, do you have a favorite Ferengi costume? Is there a Ferengi character or episode that holds a special meaning for you?
FS: My favorite costume is hands down the Nilva costume. It was my first Ferengi costume and it was the carrot I used to have the talent agency put me in the GQ photo shoot with Chris Pine. Character or episode… that is a difficult choice! I love Rom for so many reasons, so he may be my favorite Ferengi. My favorite Ferengi episode might be “Business As Usual,” mostly for the scene where Quark struggles with the thought that his actions could lead to the death of innocent millions. Armin emotes the grief and horror so bang on in that one scene that it moves me every time.
What is the most interesting fact or piece of trivia related to the Ferengi or Star Trek that you've learned during your collecting journey?
FS: Several things actually. When the Ferengi actors weren't on camera, they wore loose white gloves to avoid makeup transfer. Also, for Star Trek (2009), the way Chris sits in the captain's chair with his leg crossed was on purpose to mimic the way William Shatner did in TOS. One more: when Kirk enters the bridge at the end of the film and says, “Bones,” it was shot three ways. Once with Chris doing it his way, another with full Shatner, and a third with an in the middle approach, which is what was used in the film.
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance science fiction writer who contributes articles to the official Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.