I’ve finally cleaned out my change jar… I had been accumulating the coins from my cash transactions over the past several months in a quart-sized tin pail that sat on my dresser. I really didn’t know what to do with the coins from that can. I was saving them for a rainy day, I suppose. And all had been thoroughly scoured by me for any rare dates, varieties, or precious metal content. And all were promptly fed into my nearest Coinstar machine back in June, just as word was spreading of a nationwide, pandemic-induced coin shortage.
Cashing them in was just my minuscule contribution toward helping assuage the coin shortage, which began in the weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic started ravaging the United States, leading to a shutdown of businesses, the economy, and — yes — even the United States Mint. It was a perfect storm, really… A temporary halt in coin production at the United States Mint plus a general stoppage in daily cash transactions meant the regular flow of coins between merchants, banks, and people like you and me would soon ensue a shortage of coins.
That’s not to say there aren’t any coins around. But most of the problem is caused by people not spending them, either due to safer-at-home orders or folks preferring to pay for items electronically rather than with cash — something that by some establishments has been mandated to help reduce the spread of the virus.
Now, places such as some of my local restaurants and convenience stores are offering small but significant cash discounts when items are paid for by coin. The (overall) 10% discounts are pretty decent… But they haven’t persuaded me yet to give up my remaining stash of common Lincoln wheat cents or well-worn pre-1960 Jefferson nickels. Still, I now wish I had saved those common contemporary coins from my change jar to buy a tasty Wawa hoagie at a bit of a discount instead of paying a 10% surcharge to convert those coins into folding money!
Hindsight is 20/20… And the current coin shortage? Well, following the prevailing theme of unfortunate things this year, it is something that is SOOOOOooooooo “2020.”