Loose Change? Two Cents Worth


A bold prediction: winter will end. Sometime. Soon. Hearty residents of Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley will finally shed their puffy winter coats for something lighter. And in doing so, they’ll likely leave pocketsful of coins in their September-April apparel. Don’t believe it? Check the spring-summer-fall fashion. Jingle-Jingle. Or, check the center console of primary and secondary vehicles, and then the one or two permanently parked vehicles missing license tabs. Check the family curse jar, sofa, and the catch-all coffee mugs.

Why check? It appears there’s a national coin shortage. Blame it on COVID or the continued movement toward a cashless society. No doubt, the shortage is directly related to the pandemic. It disrupted buying habits from in-person transactions to debit or credit. Several trade associations representing grocers, retailers, and banks asked the U.S. Treasury for assistance in getting American consumers to put their hoarded coins into circulation. By mid-2020 the Federal Reserve reportedly restricted coin orders from banks and credit unions, further tightening the supply. An awareness campaign helped, but the availability of coins tightened once again in 2022.

A college professor may argue the coin shortage is more of an imbalance than a real life shortage. The professor may insist the U.S. has plenty of coins, but they are not cycling through the economy fast enough. Maybe it’s a coin circulation slowdown?

Without access to change in the registers, some of the big box retailers asked their customers to pay with credit or debit cards or exact change. Another retailer rounded purchases up to the nearest dollar to avoid giving out change. In the retailer’s defense, consumers were asked if they wanted the rounding to go to charity or onto an in-store loyalty card.

Back to the pockets, consoles, and curse jars. St. Croix Valley residents are very generous. The children’s college funds can wait. Ditto for the five dollar coffee funds and the Saturday garage sale circuits. This week’s Big Idea involves rounding up the St. Croix Valley’s loose change and directing it toward charities of choice.

Think about organizations that rhyme with food pantry, food bank, family resource center, united way, early childhood development, or habitat for humanity. A little goes a long way, but a couple of families doubling up or a neighborhood working together would make a huge difference. Any amount helps. The food bank says a one dollar donation has the buying power of purchasing eight dollars of food through its network. Jingle-Jingle. Even the college professor agrees $4.25 in loose change means $34 of food through buying network (double-check the math though, professor). Habitat for Humanity could use loose change directed toward the purchase of a two-by-four or paint for a bedroom in someone’s first home. Remember, an affordable home is where jobs go to sleep. A standard two-by-four maybe equates to a pocket and a half of change.

Let’s loosen up the imbalance of the St. Croix Valley’s coin supply. In doing so, the valley becomes a better place than it already is. Jingle-Jingle. Let’s do this.