Covid Coin Shortage

April 2, 2021


Has the pandemic left us short-changed?

Cash, Coins & COVID-19

  • Under the Treasury Dept, the Bureau of Engraving & Printing makes paper currency; the U.S. Mint makes coins.
  • The Mint delivers coins to the 12 Federal Reserve Banks that distribute coins to (& receive coins from) our financial institutions, like banks & credit unions.
  • Before COVID-19, 70%+ of U.S. transactions were conducted in person (as opposed to online) & 35% of those were paid using cash.

Short-Changed By COVID?

  • Problem: Recent closures and reduced hours at banks and stores caused major disruptions to both the supply and typical circulation pattern of coins.
  • Result: SLOWER movement of coins – NOT fewer coins overall, but a smaller inventory of coins in some areas.
  • Solution: The Federal Reserve says coin inventory issues will resolve as the economy opens and more people resume in-person banking & shopping.
“While there is adequate coin in the economy, the slowed pace of circulation has meant that sufficient quantities of coin are not readily available where needed. 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 on June 30.

In The Meantime …

  • The Federal Reserve created a task force and is temporarily overseeing the allocation of the existing coin supply.
  • Stores are doing their best to conserve coin inventories, with Wawa, CVS, & Dollar Tree asking customers to pay with exact change.
  • Some stores are asking customers to round up their purchase up to the next dollar rather than take their change, promising to donate it to charity.

DID YOU KNOW? It costs about $0.019 to produce and distribute a penny – that’s nearly double its value.

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by Jenna Lee,