The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 23, Number 29, July 19, 2020, Article 7

DR. H. DON ALLEN (1931-2020)

Canadian numismatic researcher and author Dr. H. Don Allen has passed. His family kindly provided this overview of his life and works. Thank you - we're sorry to learn this news. Thanks to Geoff Bell, Allen's daughter Laura Ashton and several others for their contributions. -Editor

Dr. H. Don Allen, Prolific Contributor to Numismatics for 7 decades, dies at 89

Harold Don Allen mid-1990s Dr. Harold Don Allen (July 2, 1931 – July 11, 2020) who taught generations of math students and future teachers, instilled a sense of wonder in bright young people about the beauty of numbers and cryptograms and brought a story-teller's passion to numismatic history and collecting, from banknotes to milk tokens, passed away quietly on in Brossard, Quebec, family at his side.

Don Allen was born and raised in Montreal, Canada, He earned his BSc in Mathematics and Physics with Distinction in 1952 from McGill University and Masters degrees from the University of Santa Clara in 1966 and Rutgers University in 1968. His doctorate in mathematics education, a source of enormous pride for him throughout his life, was conferred on him by Rutgers in 1977.

He taught professionally for 51 years, in Montreal, Chibougamau and Arvida in Quebec, at the Nova Scotia Teachers College in Truro, Nova Scotia from 1969 to 1987 and in the Canadian Arctic at the Nunavut Teacher Education Program in the mid-90s.

Allen acquired an early numismatic fascination with world paper money, began writing published articles in the late 1950s and was an active member of numismatic societies in Canada, the US and abroad for more than 70 years. He was well ahead of his time in talking about new collecting areas such as Canadian milk tokens, rationing and other "Cinderella" means of exchange, including his widely-cited 2006 article in The Numismatist about the origins of Canadian Tire scrip "money".

He was a Lifetime or Honorary member of the American Numismatic Association, Royal Canadian Numismatic Association, Canadian Paper Money Society, International Banknote Society and Society of Paper Money Collectors, a fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society, a past president of the Montreal Coin Club and a member of many other clubs worldwide.

Recipient of the Ferguson gold medal, the highest award in Canadian numismatics, Allen was a prolific writer of hundreds of articles for the world's leading numismatic journals and newspapers, including The Numismatist, Coin World, the Canadian Numismatic Journal, the International Banknote Society Journal and the Farebox.

Harold Don Allen On Televivion 1959
H. Don Allen On Television in 1959

Additionally, was an innovator in bringing the hobby to a wider audience though the use of television and radio. He and the Truro Coin Club (today known as the Central Nova Scotia Coin Club) had a regular TV program on Eastern Cablevision that was broadcast throughout central Nova Scotia. This initiative was recognised by the ANA in the 1970 National Coin Week competition, and reported by the New York Times, with Allen's entry being the only award granted that year outside the United States.

Charleton Coinman to Canadians book cover In 2001, Allen wrote the authorised biography of a renowned Canadian numismatist, Jim Charlton. J.E. Charlton: Coinman to Canadians was prepared from personal correspondence and conversations between the author and "Mr. Coin".

Never having learned to drive a car, Allen travelled by bus and train, visiting his children as they moved away from home, across Canada and to Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He proudly claimed to have visited all 48 contiguous American states plus Hawaii, attending, speaking, exhibiting and judging at ANA and other numismatic and educational conventions and gatherings.

Don and Frances Allen were married for nearly 63 years. Fran passed on in April, 2018.

Harold Don Allen Canada Goes Metric

Don and team introducing the metric system to Nova Scotia (with daughter Laura) c. 1973

Harold Don Allen Rutgers Speaker's Bureau When the metric system was being introduced in Canada during the early 1970s, Allen co-authored a series of related textbooks and used his background in broadcasting for public education of the merits of the metric system. Fran and their children had little choice but to adopt the new system when Fahrenheit and yardsticks in their home were promptly and permanently replaced with Celsius and metre sticks.

Dr. H. Don Allen will be laid to rest in his crimson doctoral robes at a private ceremony at Mount Royal Cemetery at the Allen family monument. He is survived by his four children Nigel, Laura (Ashton), Elizabeth (Seamone) and Rosalie (Jarvis) and their families. Friends and associates are invited to view his memorial site here and leave messages or numismatic memories or photos for the family.

To read the complete obituary, or leave condolences and memories in the Guestbook, see:
HAROLD DON ALLEN July 2, 1931 - July 11, 2020 (

Bob Graham writes:

"Don was a regular columnist for Canadian Coin News., I think in the 1990s and 2000s."

Canadian Numismatic Bibliography editor Darryl Atchison writes:

Numismatic Digest Cover Re Don Allen "Don was also a Fellow of the Canadian Numismatic Research Society and was the recipient of the J.D. Ferguson award in 2003.

"I met Don at many conventions over the years where he was a guest speaker and he kindly provided numerous illustrations for the CNB.

"Here is a publication produced by Don Allen to promote National Coin Week in 1960. The publication contains 40 articles that were mostly published originally in various local newspapers. The articles cover a broad spectrum and are aimed at both the general public as well as established collectors. This is very much in line with Don's philosophy of promoting the hobby in every way possible."

Ron Greene writes:

"He was a Fellow of the Canadian Numismatic Research Society from 1966 to 1987. He was not a regular attendee at the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association conventions where we held our CNRS meetings. The year that he was selected to receive the Ferguson Medal his daughter was getting married in the U.K. the same day and he chose to go to the wedding so we sent the medal to the Maritimes with Geoff Bell to be presented at the suitable time there."

Bad timing, good choice! -Editor

John Regitko writes:

"I remember the first time I met Don. I was the President of the Toronto Coin Club back in the late 1960s, chairing the meeting, when someone walked into the room just as I was calling the meeting to order. I didn't know who the gentlemen was. He must have been 6'5". I asked guests to introduce themselves. The tall man turned out to be Harold Don Allen. He happened to be in Toronto and thought he would drop in.

"I wound up with a quantity of the book on Jim Charlton from the publisher, William "Bill" Cross, who bought Charlton Press from Jim, and sold probably a hundred of them at coin shows and coin club meetings. The book was well received since not many collectors knew Jim's pre-dealer history.

"The new owner/publisher uncovered a small quantity of the book and still has a few available. The best bet is to contact Colonial Acres Coins in Kitchener, Ontario through their website for pricing and availability."

Royal Canadian Numismatic Association Executive Secretary Paul Johnson writes:

"He was Chairman of Coin Week Canada in the late 1970's. I was on his national committee so I had numerous contact with him by telephone and letter writing. I did meet him at various Royal Canadian Numismatic Association conventions back then.... however his attendance at these events became infrequent after the mid 1980's."

For further reading, see:
H. Don Allen references on the Newman Numismatic Portal (
Canadian Tire money (
Winners of Coin Week Announced (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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