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July 13, 2020

Pinching Pennies? Put Your Coins to Work

Here's an easy way to do your two bits to get the economy moving.

Got any quarters sitting in a mug on your kitchen counters? Pennies napping between the couch cushions? Dimes lounging in the back of a drawer?

It's time to get those coins moving again! You can think of coin circulation as the spinning wheel on an exercise bike, tracking from consumers to retailers to financial institutions to the Federal Reserve to financial institutions to retailers to consumers and around again. As in-person retailers around the United States restart their businesses, they need to restock the till. But where are those coins? The bicycle wheel is not currently spinning well because many coins went home with consumers in mid-March and have yet to get back into circulation.

Since March, financial institutions have not been depositing as much coin with the Federal Reserve, which is responsible for coin distribution. In addition, to assure the safety of its workforce, the U.S. Mint has slowed coin production. Those two factors mean that the Fed's coin inventory is below normal. Therefore, since mid-June, the Fed's 28 cash offices have changed the way they allocate coinOff-site link among financial institutions. The allocations are based on past order volume and the Mint's current production. Order limits vary by denomination.

But there are plenty of coins out there. The U.S. Treasury estimates that the total value of coin in circulation is $47.8 billion, up slightly from $47.4 billion as of April 2019. To ease the situation, these coins need to get up off the couch and get some exercise. Early this month, the Fed established the U.S. Coin Task ForceOff-site link, with participants from the Mint, financial institutions, armored carriers, retailers, and coin aggregators to get coin moving. The focus of the task force is to quickly identify ways to increase coin circulation.

How can you help? Bring your stash to a bank or retailer, and they'll be happy to see you. One bank is sponsoring a raffle for coin depositors; another is paying a premium to account holders who bring in lots of coin (#getcoinmoving). Or pour your hoard of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters into a coin machine to restart that spinning wheel while putting greenbacks in your pocket.