2020 Coin Shortage, Explained

Patricia Garcia • Staff Writer

pile of U.S. coins
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Rewind back to March when the pandemic was starting to become more “real.” Students excitedly readying themselves for spring break, not knowing that classes would resume online for the rest of the semester.

The panic-buying of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, and meat began. Everyone was in a state of uncertainty.

Fast forward a couple of months later and seeing signs at restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses that read something similar to, “Due to a national coin shortage, please pay with exact change, credit card, or debit card.” The staying at home period of online shopping, not going out as much, and paying with credit cards, brought the flow of change not being as active.

The United States Mint, responsible for producing circulating coinage, released a Public Service Announcement. Director David J. Ryder stated, “right now, coins aren’t circulating through the economy as quickly as they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which means that sometimes coins are not readily available where needed,” Ryder said. “This is NOT a coin supply problem. It’s a circulation problem.”

In the end this problem did have an affect on various businesses, but how exactly did it affect other people such as college students?

“To be honest I’m not someone who always has cash/coins in the first place,” Madi Wilbanks, sophomore student, said. “I feel like a lot of people have switched to just using debit/credit cards so there’s already a lack of money in circulation. It didn’t really affect me at all!”

However, there are some students that were affected by this, in one way or another.

“It affected me when I went to the store and I didn’t have any change,” Martha Cruz, freshman student, said. “I had to buy something they were selling to make a whole dollar, or I had to use my credit card even if I didn’t plan on using it that day.”

As of now, going out to a restaurant or to the grocery store, you probably won’t see as many signs as a couple of months ago. However, it was a situation in which it was unclear as to how it would develop throughout time.

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