Shortage of coins isn't really a 'shortage,' it's a monetary system 'kink'
August 3, 2020
By Mason Dockter • Sioux City Journal
Reprinted with permission
SIOUX CITY -- Chris Jackson doesn't describe the nation's coin shortage as a shortage, per se. The coins haven't gone anywhere, literally, he said.
“There's $48 billion in coin out there. It didn't go away, it wasn't dropped at the bottom of the sea or anything,” said Jackson, assistant vice president of retail services at Security National Bank.
“It's a kink in the circulation chain,” Jackson said.
“There's $48 billion in coin out there. It didn't go away, it wasn't dropped at the bottom of the sea or anything.”
Colloquialisms like "coin shortage" don't always describe all the nuances and contours of a situation.
When the U.S. economy shut down this spring, people's pocket change stayed home with them -- in sock drawers, in change dishes, in jars, in car ashtrays. Unnecessary trips outside the house seemed an unjustifiable risk, and with bank lobbies closed, few people brought their buckets of pennies to the bank.
The exchange of money generally was depressed during this time -- in April, purchases at restaurants, bars and gas stations plummeted by 40 percent compared to the year prior.
“With establishments like retail shops, bank branches, transit authorities and laundromats closed, the typical places where coin enters our society have slowed or even stopped the normal circulation of coin,” the Federal Reserve said in a June statement.
The minting of coins was also stymied somewhat by the pandemic. The U.S. Mint resumed full-capacity operations in mid-June, churning out nearly 1.6 billion coins that month, according to the Federal Reserve.
Some national retailers have struggled to get enough coinage to keep their cash registers supplied, prompting them to put up signs encouraging customers to pay with exact change or to use a debit or credit card.
Jackson said Security National Bank received an email from the Federal Reserve the second week of July alerting them to an upcoming restriction on banks' coin orders. These restrictions were eased somewhat later in the month.
Jackson described the coin shortfall as “less of a concern for now,” partly because people have to some extent resumed their normal spending patterns.
“A huge thanks to the community for stepping up and bringing their coins through drive-thrus, into branch lobbies, using it at stores and restaurants, because it definitely has helped,” he said.
Spare change? Bring it in!
At Security National Bank, we'll accept any amount of spare change on our teller lines (and some of our drive-thrus). Just stop by the nearest branch location and let us count it for you.