Northampton Jewelry and Northampton Coin Exchange

northampton coin and jewelry

For 40 years, it’s been more than precious metals and stones at Northampton Jewelry and Northampton Coin Exchange.

“We get to be part of super personal moments,” says owner Sarah Schaffer. “We get to be part of someone’s life.”

As always, it all started with an interesting personal story, passion, and drive. Schaffer’s dad, Dave Howell, was working as a biology teacher at Northampton Area High School during the gold and silver boom of the late 1970s. A longtime coin collector, he developed a network of friends who attended coin shows together. As his love for the industry grew, he decided to start a business to sell and trade coins.

“It’s amazing when I think back. My mom was pregnant with me at the time. Born in July 1979, I was just a baby when my mom gave him the green light to leave his teaching career and start his own business,” Schaffer says. “That was a pretty bold move.”

In the long run, it paid off.

Howell opened Northampton Coin Exchange in September 1980 in a small storefront on Main Street. He outgrew the space in just five years.

When the precious metals boom started to last longer than anyone anticipated, he started to dabble in basic jewelry. Back in the early to mid-1980s, home jewelry parties with chains, charms, and charm bracelets became popular. “My dad had a strong network of teacher friends, and many asked him to help,” Schaffer says. “He approached my grandfather, my mom’s dad, to host gold parties, and they did well. He ended up buying a plot of land on what is now Center Street. It was the first retail business back there.”

In September 1985, Howell built the structure that today houses Northampton Jewelry and Northampton Coin Exchange with just 2 cases of jewelry and 2 cases of coins when his daughter was in first grade. “I remember going to the ribbon-cutting ceremony when I was 6,” Sarah says.

Also sharing the location was a state store and a boutique. When the boutique closed after a few years, Howell decided to expand instead of seeking another business tenant.

“What started showcasing 4 total cases of merchandise is now 21—14 jewelry cases and 7 coin cases,” Schaffer says, pride filling her voice. “We have coins and sterling silver jewelry in the back room, and new jewelry, gold estate jewelry, and bridal jewelry in the front room.”

The store also offers an array of services such as jewelry cleaning, inspection, repairs, and remounting, watch battery/band replacement and adjustment, and estate appraisals by appointment.

Although Schaffer can’t think of anything more satisfying than running the successful family business, entry into it wasn’t part of her original career path.

“My mom and I would hang out there. Although I worked at the store from age 14, I had no interest in it,” she recalls. Her older brother, a forester by trade, also had no interest in being indoors managing a retail operation.

After Dickinson College, where Schaffer received degrees in political science and Latin American studies, she worked in Washington, D.C. for a period. She eventually moved back home and worked in marketing. A job in a sales burned her out, and while considering another job that would have taken her back to Washington, she started working for her dad part time in November 2003.

“And I never left,” Schaffer says. “I just really enjoyed it. The decision probably shocked me more than anyone.”

Her move into her dad’s business put a smile on his face, she recalls. “It was a blessing in disguise because he died from cancer in 2011. I had 8 years of working with him and my grandfather. How great is that? You can’t pay for an experience like that.”

Schaffer has embraced and sustained her dad’s legacy of providing personal customer service, nurturing lasting relationships, and creating an unpretentious store environment.

Although using media has helped to attract new customers far beyond Northampton County, the store still maintains a very loyal, local customer base that has been coming since the business first opened.

With the closing of many local independent jewelry stores over the past 10 years, Northampton Jewelry and Northampton Coin Exchange are well positioned to help Lehigh Valley consumers buy and sell coins and jewelry. With a friendly staff, the stores also actively buy scrap gold, silver, and platinum as well.

“We’re one of the only coin shops left in the Lehigh Valley where collectors can come in and peruse stock,” she says. “We have a very large inventory to browse and that’s not seen very often anymore. My dad would be proud of that. That was his baby, his passion.”

Schaffer credits her store manager, Matthew Davenport, as the backbone of the jewelry business. “He’s been with us for almost 10 years,” she says. “He’s been a major part of our success.”

A graduate of Philadelphia University with a degree in fashion merchandising, Davenport has developed a strong following for his jewelry designs. When a customer has a concept in mind, he’ll sketch out a design. Either their goldsmith, who has won Reader’s Choice recognition for the past consecutive 5 years, or a custom designer in Manhattan usually creates it.

“He’s a genius and has such a good eye,” Schaffer says. “Matt gets invited to client weddings and special events because of how personally involved he gets with customers. That really says something.” Plans for the future include expanding their estate jewelry selection and Davenport’s custom designs.

“People travel from all over to see our estate jewelry which can be antique or just a piece that’s a couple years old (from someone who decided to trade it for something else),” she says. “We have outstanding estate jewelry. Pieces are unique—99 percent of which I’ve only seen once.

Every November, the store holds an estate jewelry event that brings out buyers in droves. Consumers wait for 45 minutes before the store opens and line up on the sidewalk, trying to peek inside the covered windows for a preview. This year’s event is 6–9 p.m. on Nov. 15th.

“In 3 hours, we’ll get more than 100 people in store,” Schaffer says. “We put out between 400 and 600 pieces that no one has seen before. It’s nuts. It’s a great event. Estate jewelry is a fun part of the business, and I expect us to continue setting the bar higher in the Lehigh Valley.”

The constant flow of merchandise, customer stories, and the creative process (of turning a concept into an heirloom)—it all adds up to why Schaffer loves what she does.

“Every day is different, and I absolutely love it,” she says. “You have no idea who’s going to walk in or what they’ll have for you. We do so many interesting projects for people. Jewelry is super personal. You get to be part of that. I find it to be so much fun and really, really rewarding.”

Northampton Jewelry and Northampton Coin Exchange
1918 Center St

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