Editor’s Note: This is the 14th in a series about iconic Westerville businesses that are featured monthly.
The find for collectors is Allen’s Coin Shop, a three-generation, family-owned business located in Westerville since 1960.
Ed Karn purchased the store from his late father E. Allen Karn in 1990.
“He originally opened in 1960 at 12 W. College,” he said.
The business moved a couple times on North State Street before landing at its current location, 399 S. State St., in the Cherri Park Square Shopping Center, in 1981.
Karn said his dad’s passion for collecting coins and stamps is what started it all.
“I can remember talking to Bill Freeman, Doc Freeman and him saying he would go and trade lunch money. In other words, (dad) would take his lunch money and he would barter with him to trade, obviously skipping lunch himself because he wanted the coins.”
Karn, a 1981 graduate of Westerville South High School, said he worked for his dad and was the general manager before purchasing Allen’s in 1990.
“I had another business and left in the ‘80s to do distribution/manufacturing,” he said. “It’s not a normal coin shop because we do a little bit more than coins. We do the jewelry, we do the collectibles, we do paper money. With the collectible part, I probably added the figurines.”
His sister, Carol Hessler, runs the jewelry side of the business and plans to retire in October.
Karn’s son, Seth, 23, started working Saturdays for him during his senior year of high school in 2018. “I always thought I would end up working here,” he said. “I like retail, dealing with gold and silver. That’s the most fun I have. I like old silver, old dollars.”
Ed Karn said he also has an 11-year-old son, and a nephew, Doug Morris, who he hopes will keep the shop going.
“A lot of times, it makes it through one generation,” he said. “Now, we basically have the third generation working. Part of what I’m doing with the manufacturing and the other stuff we make that’s our own products is to try to keep it a going entity. We do a lot of other stuff to try to keep it going for generations.”
If coins slow down, he said he manufactures aluminum showcases, plastic, cardboard.
“We’ve added a lot of things (dad) didn’t do,” Karn said. “We do some publishing. The coins are the love. I love stamps, too, but haven’t figured out how to buy and sell stamps and make money. It’s so labor intense and with the cost of labor being so much, it’s hard to do. I still have lots of stamps in storage. I’d love to bring them back but, at this point, it isn’t possible.”
Karn said he and his 25 to 40 employees really try to encourage the younger kids.
“At least with this, you’re holding history,” he said. “I have U.S. coins from 1794. Whose hands were they in? They didn’t make very many coins in 1794. Could George Washington have had that coin? You never know what you’re going to see.”
Employee Joel Riley said it’s like a treasure hunt every day.
“What you find is the younger generation will have a parent or grandparent that collected and they inherit a few pieces,” he said. “That kind of gets them started and intrigued.”
While looking through rolls of coins one day, Riley said he found something that looked interesting.
“I got it under a glass,” he said. “There’s a guy that has worked here 35 years who has a great eye. I said, ‘I’d like you to look at this coin and tell me if I got something.’ He looked at it and goes, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ In 1918, they recycled some 1917 nickels at the Denver mint. So there’s a 1917 and they stamped 1918 over top of it. So if you look really close on the eight, you can see a seven behind it. It’s called an over date. And the ‘D’ is on the back for the Denver mint. Instead of it being worth 50 cents or a buck, it’s worth a thousand dollars.”
Riley said that’s a nice find.
“You can do that here, not every day, but you do it enough that it’s really fun,” he said. “That’s what drives a collector. People that come here love that stuff.”
A recent Google review by Jeremy Ropp said Allen’s is the best place for a seller.
“(I) checked multiple places out and they offered the most,” he wrote. “I respect their business practices, they educated and spoke real talk. Will definitely do business with them again.”
Business hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.
It’s closed on Sundays.
For more information, check out their website at allensinc.com.