Do You Care About The Coin Shortage?

by Kevin Burton

   There is a nationwide coin shortage.  By now most people know that. But do you care?

   Depending on who you are and where you work maybe, the shortage may be critical or a complete non-story.

   According to the New York Post the Coronavirus pandemic has “significantly disrupted the supply chain and circulation patterns for metal money.”

   This has prompted several large grocery and convenience store chains, including 7-Eleven, Pilot and Circle K, to urge customers to use electronic forms of payment or exact change.

   You see the signs in many places now. We just saw one at a nearby Walgreens. Some places are giving out credit for future purchases on debit cards instead of coins as change.

   At the same time that the US Mint slowed production of coins to protect the health of its workers, coin deposits from banks plunged because of the virus, according to the Post. 

   Starting in June, the Federal Reserve began temporarily allocating set amounts of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to banks. The limits given to each institution will be reviewed and changed as supply increases, reported the Post.

   When the coin story first hit, most of the country was opening up. Banks and retailers thought that coin circulation would return to normal sooner rather than later.  With the virus spiking in so many places now, the coin shortage could linger.

   But it isn’t an issue in many households. Here’s how far coins are off my radar these days.

   We prepared to grill on July 3 but soon ran out of propane.  So it was either cook everything in the oven or go get a new tank. The last time this happened we cooked inside. This time we went for more propane.

   The clerk charged me for a brand new propane tank instead of for a replacement tank.  The guy at Lowes who was getting me the new tank noticed this and suggested I get this cleared up.

   I went to customer service and explained what happened. The difference ended up being more than $32. 

  Instead of voiding the debt card transaction they gave me a refund in cash.  The refund came to $32.30, including of course a quarter and a nickel.

   I have no reason to keep track of such things so I don’t know this for sure, but it might have been the first time anybody handed me any kind of coin all year.

   Maybe a month ago I cleaned out a briefcase I hadn’t used in a while and found a nickel. I held it up like some kind of exotic animal and pondered it. 

   Coins are just not a part of my consciousness anymore.  How about you?

   A spokesperson for Quik Trip told KAKE-TV that Wichita residents have been good about helping with the shortage by trading in coins for paper money.  But I have also seen a story or two about people hoarding coins the way they did toilet paper in the spring. 

   We have a jar for coins that at times has been fairly full.  On autumn Sundays I used to watch NFL games and between plays and during commercials would roll coins for later deposit. Now I’m not sure I will have NFL games or coins in the fall. 

   Then there was this from a Facebook friend, “I have discovered the reason for the change shortage. It has all been in the bottom of my purse. My apologies to my fellow Americans and the fed reserve.”

   The situation is not so funny for laundromats, which depend heavily on coins.  KSNW-TV reports that people have started exchanging bills for coins at one laundromat and then just leaving, not washing anything.

   The drumbeat to end use of all paper currency has grown louder since 2002 when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) decreed that “Money’s destiny is to become digital.”

  The OECD is an intergovernmental economic group with 37 member countries. The group is not calling for the immediate demise of paper money. But the topic is on the minds of international bankers.

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3 Comments

  1. It doesn’t matter a lot to me now as mostly use credit card for most purchases, but for some things like riding bus, and things like purchasing something from a vending machine where its operator hasn’t yet incorporated the card-reader capability into it, much as same for laundries. For so many reasons I am thankful that retirement was an option that I was blessed to be able to have before the numerous challenges of running a small business in this pandemic.

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  2. People who fill vending machines for a living are also dealing with this. Because banks only get so many coins at a time, they are having trouble getting the change they need to fill the coin mechs on their machines. I have been told that one bank branch says they get 1,000 dollar coins every other week. A particular vendor generally needs 500 of those coins to last perhaps a month. If that person takes 500 from what the bank gets, there are 500 left. If that’s not enough for others who may come in needs those dollar coins, they must place an order and wait perhaps two weeks to get what they need. Do you begin to see the problem? Interesting times these are. I, myself, generally do not think of and rarely use coins or even casha great deal of the time.

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