Frank and Jennifer Greco – Astoria Coins and Collectibles

18 Sep

Frank and Jennifer Greco and their son Robert in Astoria Coins and Collectibles, 21-06 30th Ave

First up, a note from Jennifer Greco about the shop:

Astoria Coins and Collectibles is a place where collectors meet each other whether during working hours or on Saturdays, to discuss coins of interest, the market trends, or just stop by to say “Hello”.  The highlight of the store has always been the display cases, and whatever wall hangings we have on display at the moment, and the comradely conversations.  Frank Greco believes that these displays are not only of interest to our devoted customers, but even travelers find interest in the museum-like experience of seeing a small bit of history hanging on our walls and in our cases. Our unique coin shop is an interesting visit for people of all ages.

Interview

Frank and Jennifer Greco have run Astoria Coins and Collectibles on 30th Avenue since 1975.  It was a coin shop before then too.  Jennifer’s family owned the building, and the store first opened when she was around eight years old.  “I used to come in all the time with my Dad,” she says.  “I grew to love the shop and the idea of collecting coins…I guess it is in my blood now.”

She was fifteen when she met Frank.  They were both working at Key Food supermarket, at the time located not on 30th Ave as it is now but on 31st Street, between 21st Avenue and Ditmars.  Frank left Key Food after the couple had their children, as he was working really long hours.  He got a job with Air Canada at JFK airport and began working in the coin shop as well on Saturdays.  Then when he was laid off, he made the coin shop his full time vocation.  Their two sons and daughter are now grown up: the middle son, Robert, works in the coin store too.

“It’s the whole thing,” Frank says, on why he is passionate about working with coins.  “It’s a history lesson, really.  For example you start thinking about the movies, and John Wayne when he used to go into a bar with a silver dollar and get a whole bottle and a meal, and maybe even a woman and still get change!”

The store focuses on US coins, but also sells coins from many other countries.  Frank says that there used to be more coin shops, particularly in Manhattan.  But given the increasing rents and rise of the internet there are far fewer now.   He himself does a lot of business on the internet, while also sourcing coins from customers who bring them in, dealers who go from store to store, and shows.

The display cases that run the length of the store are crammed with clearly-labeled coins, each of which conveys a story.  Recently among them were a coin commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 address at Cooper Union before he became President, and a more recent coin marking the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in the UK.

The store also used to sell baseball cards and comic books, a hit with kids from the local boys club.  They still provide a bright patchwork on the walls, along with cabinets of coins, hanging bills, and a superhero mural.  But, Frank says, “It just got out of hand, got crazy.  I’d be selling baseball cards for a dollar a piece and then all of a sudden they came out with the high-end cards for $10 a piece.  Same thing with the comics.  But kids don’t have ten dollars.  So I just stopped it.”

The store provides an income tax service too.  It predates the coin business, in that Jennifer’s father had a real estate office next door which also did income tax.  Frank says: “At that time we would get the paper with the carbon copy in the middle and if you made a mistake you would rip it up and have to do another one.  When I got started, all I remember is ‘Do it over!  Do it over!”.

Astoria Coins and Collectibles is a place to hang out as much as a store.  “My eldest son always says that we should turn on a video here, because of the people who come in and just talk,” Jennifer says.  “Usually it starts about coins, about the economy, but then it becomes anything.”

A significant change they are seeing the neighborhood is the construction of new, expensive apartment buildings.  “I see a yuppie generation coming in,” says Jennifer.  “For the older generation – I can speak from my mom’s point of view because she was also born and raised in Astoria – she hates it.  She says they’re killing Astoria, I guess killing the country feeling of it, that she had growing up around 18th Street.”

Frank adds: “I grew up in Long Island City, down by Vernon Boulevard and 40th, where the Pepsi plant was.  When I grew up there it was just factories.  Now it’s Manhattan just coming right over the river.  And they’re going to do that along the waterfront here, too.  It’s just a matter of time.”

He says that properties are being overpaid for.  He cites the example of an apartment block on 21st Street where “they purchased five or six houses for $1.2 million.  Most people who live there paid like $8-10,000 for their houses.  If you get an offer for $1.2 million, you’re like ‘ok I’m out of here!’”

The coin store will no doubt though remain a community fixture for many years to come.  Jennifer recently returned to work there after retiring from her work in education.  “It’s invigorating,” she says.  “Especially having been in a classroom, a school, where you know there’s a lot of action, I never realized what I was missing all those years!”

Jennifer, Frank, and their dog Trudy

Baseball cards and comic books on the store wall

10 Responses to “Frank and Jennifer Greco – Astoria Coins and Collectibles”

  1. Mike LaCovara May 4, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

    I love this store! I’ve been shopping with Frank for years, and he has always been pleasant, and very honest. To me, there isn’t a better coin shop around.

  2. Mohammed hassan morshed January 22, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    I need your address to visit your store

  3. Jennifer September 25, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    Hello Our Wonderful Family, Friends, and Amazing Patrons,

    We want to say THANK YOU! Thank you for your good wishes, for visiting, and for the gifts! THANK YOU for making our grand reopening a delightful, successful, memorable experience. We love and appreciate you all!

    Peace, Love, Happiness and Coins! (LOL)

    Frank and Jen

  4. Millie September 24, 2012 at 1:17 am #

    Congratulations on your re-opening. I’m sure all of your customers have been waiting to come into the store,spend time with you, Jen, Rob and Trudy of course, browse and shop! I think its great that you have built and kept a small business running successfully all these years. It’s a dream realized and something for all of us to be proud of. Good luck always with love from your “little” sister, ha ha.

  5. Christine & Bill September 20, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    What a great articles!!! Wishing you only the best on your grand re-=opening!!
    Love you all!!!
    Christine, Bill, Manny & Julia

  6. Janine September 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    Over the last few years, more and more people I know have begun to flock to Astoria as it has become one of the new “it” neighborhoods to move to. I am not sure if it the convenient location to Manhattan or the more affordable rent, but I think its subconscious lure has to do with its intimate community feel and preservation of old world charm. Thank you for playing a part!

  7. Fred & Glorianne Romano September 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    “Yesterday brought the beginning, tomorrow brings the end, but somewhere in the middle, we’ve become best of friends”.

    October 10th, 1975: Fred started work at Ditmars Key Food and first met Frank and Jennifer. Shortly after, Fred introduced his new wife, Glorianne. Jennifer admits, at first, she thought Glorianne was “nuts”, but the four of us quickly formed solid bonds.

    We have seen each other through it all..births, vacations, career changes, moves..the ups and downs of life. It seems, now, that we have found our place.

    We wish you continued success in the “Coin Shop”, and we look forward to walking the road ahead, side by side.

    Much Love,
    Fred and Glorianne

  8. Linda and Adam September 19, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

    Dearest Cousins,
    You took me down memory lane. I too remember going into your dad’s real
    Estate office and the coin store. Thank goodness for holding on to a piece of the past.
    It is not only a business but a true love for the Astoria community.
    In my heart 21 -06 30th ave will always be a landmark in Astoria.
    Lots of Luck and Best Wishes.
    Linda and Adam

  9. Carol Giancola September 19, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    Congrats to you all…including Trudy!

  10. Sheila Brennan September 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    Dear Jen, Frank,Rob and Trudy!!
    Love the article, love the pictures. Lots of Good Luck and Happiness for many, many more years to come.
    Love The Brennans

Leave a Reply