Is the coin shortage happening everywhere, or just in the United States?

(Inspired by @kayaker’s recent related thread)

So, it now appears to be an established fact that there is a nationwide coin shortage.

I’d been wondering why all of the self-serve checkout terminals, in all of the local markets that I frequent, have switched to card-only transactions–now I know.)

It’s long been my assertion that of the four coins in common circulation – penny, nickel, dime, and quarter), not one has a sufficiently high denomination to be conveniently spendable. If you use a $20 bill to buy something that costs $10.18 you might add eighteen cents so you can get ten dollars back, or you might even just add three cents so you won’t get any pennies. (And now apparently, the government wishes we would do just that.) But how often do you buy anything with just coins, anymore? You could buy a latte at Starbucks with quarters, but that’s really stretching it, and it would be difficult even to hold that many quarters in your hand. If you get a ten-dollar bill in change, you will probably spend it fairly soon. If you get a nickel in change, that’s probably going to be sticking around a lot longer. Paper money is circulated, and coins are… er….distributed.

So how is this playing out in other countries? Most other industrialized countries have high denomination coins, e.g. twonies in Canada, two-pound coins in the UK, and so on. Japan and Switzerland have coins with even greater values. Are those countries also experiencing a coin shortage, or is it just happening here?

I will only respond to the side issue: that’s because we’ve massively inflated away the value of the coinage over the years. Even low inflation adds up, if uni-directional. It was not always the case.

I wouldn’t call that a side issue but a potential hijacking of the actual subject.

We’re not alone in that, though. In the postwar era a pound was such a large amount in most of 1960s Great Britain that the costs of small purchases were often quoted in shillings, even if the amount was more than one pound. In a contemporary source, I once read that an LP record cost about “thirty shillings” in the shop.

What we are alone in is the fact that, while other countries have done away with their pennies, farthings, cents, and single-unit notes, we have not. Other countries have modernized their circulating coins to reflect current price levels.

I’ve never heard of one in Canada. The mint comes out with “special” versions all the time showing off Haida paintings, Remembrance poppies, different provinces, the Olympics etc. and I don’t think even these ones are commonly hoarded.

The Canuck government sensibly has $1 and $2 denominations for parking and vending machines and now rounds all purchases up or down to the nearest $0.05 which saves useless pennies which cost more to make than their value.

I have heard that $20 and $50 bills are in short supply in Canada. The reality is that even pre-Covid a large majority of all transactions were non-cash. According to this site cash accounted for about 19% of the value and 26% of the transaction volume last year.

There was a suggestion earlier this year that the government was going to stop minting copper coins. For some reason, this provoked an outcry and nothing came of it.

Any coins I acquire as change (and there are very few these days) get put in a pot in the kitchen. At some point I will have to decide what to do with it.

Not too long ago there was a coin shortage in Argentina:

It may still be going on in some form. There are references to it into the mid 2010s. It escalated to the point of vendors refusing to make change with small bills as well.

Forbes Magazine addressed this about a week ago. TL : DR - laundromats, car washes, and especially vending machines, all of which largely rely on coins, aren’t operating at the same volume that they did just a few months ago.

Former laundromat owner checking in, albeit from the 1980s.

Back in the day, our laundromat deposited zero coins to the bank. In fact we withdrew coins from the bank though not a lot.

As a general matter, the coins just cycled between the laundry machines and our change machine with some net leakage out to the outside world. Our income was the bills going into the change machines. Which we took to the bank.

A vending machine business with lots of onesy twosy installations would tend to be pure intake of coins (plus bills) to later deliver to the bank. Although those facilities which are a wall-o-vending-machines with a bill changer nearby would tend to operate more like a laundromat with little net flow of coins.

Greetings from the UK. I have no idea if there is a coin shortage. I have not used cash for four months plus. I think this is pretty much the norm here. I’ve seen a few threads about the US coin shortage and wondered - why? We were told in March, don’t use cash (or you’ll catch COVID) - every shop we went to put up a sign saying No Cash - everything we do now is card/electronic, usually contactless.

So to answer the OP - I presume not in the UK, but I don’t think it’s relevant now, and I don’t think it’s likely to be particularly relevant ever again.


I honestly don’t understand the whole point of the OP.

What’s wrong with using a TEN dollar bill, and a few coins, to buy something that costs $10.18?

The OP seems to think that coins are useless unless you can pay for the entire item using only coins. I don’t get it. Why do you need so many quarters? Why not a few $1 bills and a smaller number of quarters?

There’s nothing wrong with using exact change. The problem is, most people don’t. They’re lazy. Instead of fishing out exactly $10.18–and remember, about half the population keeps their coins in a completely different place than their wallets–most people will just slap $11 or $15 down on the counter. It’s easier. Your paper money is all there in the same place. As a result, people accumulate more and more coins, which tend to stay out of circulation longer.

Ten dollar notes are seldom available from automatic teller machines.

Other countries have rounder prices, requiring much less change.

That’s a big part of it. I see ten-dollar bills rarely enough that they sometimes look weird when I do come across one. Cashiers seem to give out five-dollar bills more often for some reason.

When stores get change orders (i.e. exchange large bills for smaller bills and coins), they rarely get $10 bills. They usually just get a whole bunch of $5’s. So tens circulate much less than other small bills.

Of course, many vending machines are starting to accept plastic payment.

I’ve not noticed ‘rounder’ prices in Australia.

But perhaps we were well on the way towards a cashless society before COVID-19. No change shortage here.

We don’t have pennies, but 5c is still stupidly small and goes directly to the change bowl. The coin system would work better if we had got rid of everything smaller than 1, (USD 0.70) which is, I think, one of the reasons why we already well on the way towards a cashless society.

Here in China ISTM there already was something of a coin shortage as few people pay for anything with cash any more, preferring QR-code based systems on WeChat or Alipay.

Even in busy convenience stores, if you pay by cash, when the till opens you may notice it’s almost empty. And it’s not unusual to be told the store has insufficient change, and could you kindly use WeChat / Alipay instead?