The United States is currently experiencing another crisis due to COVID-19 – a coin shortage. Low-denomination coins like pennies and nickels are in high demand at grocery stores, banks, laundromats, and retail stores around the country. This sudden surge in demand for coins has resulted in low penny inventories at some commercial banks, financial institutions, and Federal Reserve offices. The United States mint had to scale back operations by nearly 20% earlier this spring and decreased coin production to protect employees from COVID-19 infections. Coin kiosks in banks and grocery stores also saw a reduction of activity around the country.
Chris Royal, CNB Bank & Trust Market President, says that locally things have slowed a bit and limits have been placed on their orders at the bank by the Federal Reserve: “I know that the Federal Reserve is limiting us as to our normal order of coin, so we are not able to get extra. We do have some customers that bring us coin, and so we are able to convert that into rolls and then, redistribute that out to our customers. We have really seen the coin shortage here so far, but if people start hoarding coins, it will probably make the situation worse. It’s kind of day-to-day.”
Royal says it may be a good time to go digging in the couch cushions, coin jars, change cups, and pants pockets to bring in and convert into cash or deposit into your bank accounts: “It’s always nice to bring it in and convert that into cash that you can use or put in your checking or savings account. It’s really not doing anyone any good by keeping it at home, so bring it in. We are not going to pay a premium for it, but we will convert it into cash or put it into an account for you.”
The Federal Reserve told businesses and banks in the middle of last month that a coin shortage may continue for several months, lasting possibly into next year. In a June 30 press release, it announced it had formed a task force to address the issue and will work with partners such as the American Bankers Association and the United States Mint. The mint has said that coin production was ramping up as employees had returned to work, with many working voluntary overtime hours to increase production.