How common are coins in America

Shortage of change in the USA: When the search for the next “quarter” is difficult

Shortage of change in the USA: When the search for the next “quarter” is difficult

In America, stores are running out of change. For example, laundromats complain that they don't have enough “quarters” for their machines. What is behind the coin shortage?

Nobody is spared from this crisis, not even a nationally active retailer. The home improvement store “The Home Depot”, whose 2,300 American branches are currently being stormed by hobbyists, warns of the “national coin shortage” on large posters. Because there are problems with giving change, credit cards or checks should be used when buying products, it can be read there.

Car washes, casinos, small supermarkets or laundromats have been complaining about problems with cash transactions for weeks - half of all money transactions under $ 10 in America are carried out with notes or coins. There is a lack of “quarters” in the tills, as the 25 cent coin is colloquially known. "This is a problem that nobody expected," said Brian Wallace, president of the Coin Laundry Association, in an interview.

Do banks ration coin spending?

The corona crisis has caused difficulties for around 2,000 member companies, in which socially disadvantaged Americans wash and dry their clothes, says Wallace. The salon operators had to ensure that customers did not become infected with the virus while they were in the often cramped rooms, which sometimes have dozens of washing machines. The search for 25 cent coins "now makes it even more difficult" to keep the laundromats running.

The industry representative blames the financial industry for the “Quarters” bottleneck. Banks "rationed" the issue of coins to their business customers, says Wallace. His member companies are therefore forced to spend more time looking for "quarters" with which the changing machines are fed first and then the washing machines.

"Coins are not in the right place"

The financial industry, however, rejects the charge that it is hoarding coins. The real cause of the “national coin shortage” is rather that too few coins are currently in circulation, it is said. The "Quarters" are in private households or in stores that would not have resumed operations after the lockdown, "they are just not in the right place," said Jim Gaherity, CEO of Coinstar, recently the business magazine "Bloomberg Businessweek".

Coinstar operates around 20,000 machines worldwide in which coins can be exchanged for bank notes or customer cards. Coinstar collected around $ 2.7 billion in this way in America last year; However, due to the Corona crisis, this volume decreased at least in the spring. Coinstar does not disclose any figures; the company is privately owned. In other countries in which his company operates - for example in Germany or Canada - Coinstar is not confronted with the same problem, says Gaherity.

Will there be a credit card boom?

David Ryder, director of the United States Mint, which is responsible for minting American coins, suggests a similar tone. In an Internet video, Ryder points out that the mint is currently producing more quarters or dimes (10 cents) than ever before. That's right: In June alone, the Mint minted 1.6 billion coins.

And according to the U.S. Treasury Department, there are currently $ 47.8 billion worth of coins in circulation. But the corona pandemic interrupted cycles that once guaranteed that the coins were in the right place, says Ryder. Somewhat desperate, he therefore calls on the Americans to slaughter their piggy banks and put coins back into circulation. "Every little bit helps."

After all: Brian Wallace, the head of the Coin Laundy Association, predicts that the current crisis will accelerate the technological upgrade of laundries. At present, 56 percent of his association members still do not accept credit cards, he says. However, the salon operators would have to be careful not to forget their customers. Because the Americans who have to wash their clothes outside of their home are often people who have neither a credit card nor a bank account.