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Bizarrely, the coronavirus has caused a coin shortage in the US

Published Jul 4th, 2020 7:03PM EDT
Coin shortage
Image: Francis J Dean/Shutterstock

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  • Here’s another byproduct of the coronavirus pandemic that’s unfolding right now and which most people might not even be aware of: The US is experiencing a coin shortage.
  • This is partly a result of the US Mint cutting production amid the pandemic, but retailers are also dealing with a shortage of money as a result of dramatic interruptions in the normal flow of consumers buying things and their money changing hands.
  • This is leading retailers around the country to start posting signs encouraging customers to use exact change or banning payments in cash altogether.

When I pulled up to the drive-thru of a donut place near my apartment today, I was greeted by a sign posted on the menu board outside that I haven’t seen anywhere else during the coronavirus pandemic yet. It explained to customers that the US, believe it or not, is actually experiencing a coin shortage right now and to please use exact change if you’re not making an electronic payment with something like Apple Pay. Wait, what?

It’s true. This is yet another bizarre side effect of the ongoing pandemic, and retailers across the country are increasingly presenting their customers with this same message. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that the US Mint cut its production of coins as part of a protective measure for its workers, something I bet most people didn’t even consider. But add to that the fact that the normal flow of commerce has been dramatically curtailed — such that fewer people than ever are, you know, actually buying things in-person which necessitates physical money changing hands — and you can begin to see why this is starting to be a problem.

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime was a popular song in the US during the Great Depression, so it’s perhaps fitting that during this Depression-level economic catastrophe we’re living through right now we’re once again seeing a shortage of coins.

If you haven’t yet, here’s a version of the sign that I saw which you’re likely to also run into soon:

Indeed, people across the US seem to have been increasingly waking up to this unusual byproduct of the pandemic in recent days. “What’s with the coin shortage?” asks a thread from just a few days ago on Reddit. “Production is way down,” one commenter on that thread wrote. “The Treasury even issued an emergency minting of some coins. And a lot of places aren’t physically touching cash, preferring credit cards. So the normal exchange is also down.”

The Michigan-based supermarket chain Meijer has reportedly banned cash payments in its self-checkout lanes until the coin shortage ends. According to, the company will still accept bills at cash registers in checkout lines that are staffed by employees.

“While we understand this effort may be frustrating to some customers, it’s necessary to manage the impact of the coin shortage on our stores,” Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi told MLive.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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