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October 2022

U.S. Coin Circulation:
The Path Forward
(Follow up to the State of Coin Paper)




Executive Summary


Chapter 1: Broader context
and study approach



Coin circulation in the context
of COVID-19 and secular
Study approach

Chapter 2: Root causes



2a: Discussion of circulating
2b: Impacts on the consumer
2c: Frictions at Financial
2d: Structural challenges
impacting the ‘health’ of the
coin ecosystem


Chapter 3: Potential solutions
and implications for the
path ahead









Overview of solutions that
address root causes
Pillar #1: Increased
Pillar #2: Inventory
Pillar #3: Denomination shifts
Pillar #4: Reinforced
consumer pathways
Key enablers of solution
Success drivers of solution
Support from ecosystem
A bold opportunity for the


Executive Summary
In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic precipitated an acute coin circulation challenge in the United States, leading to
significant costs for ecosystem participants, including consumers, merchants and retailers, and financial institutions
(FIs).1 In response, the United States Mint increased its production of coins by ~25%, and the Mint and Federal Reserve
Banks released approximately five billion pieces of coin reserves. Meanwhile, many ecosystem participants took
significant action to mitigate the impact of the circulation challenge. For example, retailers instigated rounding
programs, while FIs shipped coin across the country to meet demand. In June 2020, with no full resolution in sight in
the near-term, the Federal Reserve was forced to impose allocation limits on coin orders from FIs in order to allocate
the scarce supply of coin in an equitable way.
A group of coin industry representatives also formed the U.S. Coin Task Force,2 which launched an investigation into
the circulation challenge, and took early action with the #GetCoinMoving campaign. This report follows the U.S. Coin
Task Force’s "State of Coin" paper , offering a deeper analysis of the root causes of the circulation challenge, and a
potential solution roadmap toward a more transparent, resilient, and efficient future coin ecosystem.
While coin was circulating relatively freely prior to the pandemic, the coin ecosystem already had multiple major
structural weaknesses that exacerbated the circulation shock induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. These weaknesses
included a low level of transparency (borne of chronic underinvestment in coin infrastructure), a large unbanked or
underbanked population in comparison with other highly developed countries, a very fragmented financial services
industry, and a substantial percentage of low denomination coins that were already in active circulation. While these
weaknesses did not themselves cause the circulation shock, they heightened its severity relative to similar shocks
experienced by coin ecosystems in other countries.
The actual cause of the shock was the erosion of consumer pathways to return coin to circulation via commercial
avenues such as tolls, laundromats, mass transit, casinos, and to a lesser degree, directly to bank branches. This erosion
resulted from an acceleration of structural changes during the pandemic, including a shift to digital payments and
changing physical bank footprints. These changes are secular in nature - that is, they are long-term, macro trends. It is
therefore unlikely that former recirculation pathways will return to a pre-COVID status quo. Moreover, while the
supply of recirculated coin declined, demand for coin has remained persistent due to the continued need to make cash
transactions at retailers and other merchants. As a result, consumer coin jars, which already represented the largest
holdings of actively circulating coin, grew by as much as 15-20% during the pandemic.
Given that this circulation challenge has lasted for more than two years, with little sign of easing, bold action via
transformative solutions must be considered. These solutions are generally neither rapid nor simple and require
considerable investment from the coin ecosystem. Nevertheless, such investment would produce a range of farreaching results. It would resolve the circulation challenge, thereby resolving the frictions and real costs borne by the
ecosystem; strengthen the resilience of the ecosystem to withstand future shocks; lower the cost of circulating coins;
and reduce the environmental and societal costs of coin production, storage, and recirculation.
The report identifies four potential solution pillars, addressing the acute circulation challenge and generating longterm change, as follows:
1. Increase transparency into coin inventories and flows across the coin ecosystem
2. With increased transparency, develop new coin inventory management practices
3. Shift the mix of denominations produced by the U.S. Mint toward higher value coins


“Financial Institution” denotes any institution engaged in the business of providing financial services to customers who maintain credit, deposit, trust or other
financial accounts or relationships with that institution. This includes, but is not limited to, banks of all sizes (e.g., national, regional, community) and credit unions.
2 The U.S. Coin Task Force is a cross-functional coin ecosystem body with representation from all major participants in the coin supply chain, including large and
small financial institutions, retailers, aggregators, the Federal Reserve System, armored carriers, and the U.S. Mint


4. Boost consumer awareness and reinforce consumer options for depositing loose coin cheaply and
Along with cohesive action, successful execution will require investment in data sharing, talent, and technology.
While solutions to the coin circulation challenge are inherently complex, genuine collaboration among ecosystem
participants can overcome this challenge and create a more transparent, efficient, and resilient coin ecosystem.


Chapter 1:
Broader context
and study

Coin circulation in the context of
COVID-19 and secular trends


a consumer may go to deposit their loose coins in exchange for cash, a gift
card (or as a donation to a non-profit). Consolidators count, wrap, and
package coin for customers and may also facilitate the purchase and sale of
coin between other ecosystem participants (e.g., aggregators and retailers)
5 Federal Reserve data

As per Federal Reserve data from 2011-2019
In this report, the coin ecosystem includes all firms and individuals who
handle coin, including merchants, consumers, Financial Institutions, CashIn-Transit companies, aggregators, consolidators & government agencies.
Aggregators are companies that operate loose coin deposit machines where


oin was circulating relatively freely in the years
after the Great Recession. Prior to the COVID-19
pandemic, the Federal Reserve Banks (FRB)
distributed an average of 70 billion pieces3 of coin
annually to financial institutions (FIs). FIs then
circulated coin throughout the broader ecosystem,
including to retailers and small businesses.4 The bulk
(~80%) of the demand for coin was met by recirculating
coin from consumers back to FIs via pathways such as
consumer deposits to aggregators or FIs, or through
consumers using coin at commercial service providers
such as mass transit, toll roads, laundromats, casinos,
and others. In total, this amounted to an average of 57
billion pieces per year.5 The remainder of circulating


coin (around 20%) was supplied by new coin provided
to the Federal Reserve Banks by the U.S. Mint. The
pandemic fundamentally disrupted this circulation
pattern and created a circulation challenge that has
now persisted for more than two years.
Shortly after the United States enforced COVID-19
public health measures in 2020, there was a
precipitous drop in coin deposits from FIs to the
Federal Reserve Banks. Circulating coin in 2021
decreased by approximately 25 billion pieces (worth

The U.S. Coin Task Force carried out important
foundational work by beginning to assess the
circulation challenge, and the task force also began to
take action through the #GetCoinMoving campaign.
Additionally, in an effort to guarantee continued
availability, the U.S. Mint increased coin production by
approximately 25% in 2020 and 2021,6 while the
Federal Reserve Banks and the U.S. Mint also released
about five billion pieces in coin stock over a two-tothree-month period at the beginning of the pandemic.


around $2.5 billion) in comparison with the circulation
trend beforehand (Figure 1). Despite this decrease, the
demand for coin from the Federal Reserve Banks did
not fall at an equivalent rate, thereby creating a gap in
coin availability across the ecosystem. In response to
this circulation challenge, the U.S. Coin Task Force was
convened in July 2020 to identify sources of friction and
develop preliminary recommendations.

Lastly, in the summer of 2020, the Federal Reserve
imposed allocation limits on FIs in an attempt to
allocate the scarce supply of coin in an equitable way.
Nevertheless, these measures only temporarily
lessened the impact of the circulation challenge for
retailers, their customers, and other coin users. Two
years later, the coin circulation challenge continues to
create issues for banks, merchants, and consumers.

Per U.S. Mint data


It is within this context that this paper will outline an
evaluation of root causes and recommendations for
implementing practical solutions to the coin circulation
challenge and securing the future resilience of the

Study approach
As a follow up to the “State of Coin” paper published
by the U.S. Coin Task Force, the U.S. Mint and the
Federal Reserve’s FedCash Services business line
facilitated a six-month study. The study involved a close
partnership with stakeholders across the coin
ecosystem to diagnose the root causes of the
circulation challenge (Chapter 2) and develop potential
solutions to both address the challenge and build
toward a more resilient, transparent, and efficient coin
ecosystem (Chapter 3). A third-party consultant was
engaged to gather data and provide support for
quantitative and qualitative analyses, and to assist with
preparing this follow-up report.


Best-in-breed case studies from other industries
such as glass bottles, healthcare, and others that
have complex ecosystems which rely on

In partnership with the third-party consultant, the U.S.
Mint and Federal Reserve teams used these multiple
inputs to develop a set of holistic analyses and arrive at
a robust, data-backed evaluation of root causes and
potential solutions.
It is important to note that the engagement and
partnership of the coin ecosystem was critical to the
development of this report. Stakeholders were willing
to share their time, experience, and their data with the
third-party consultant.

Inputs to the study included:



More than 120 hours of confidential interviews
and follow-up conversations with 80
stakeholders and experts, including financial
institutions of all sizes, multiple types of retailers,
bank and retail associations, aggregators, both
national and regional Cash-In-Transit (CIT)7 firms,
and other key members of the coin ecosystem8
Responses from a 5,000-person consumer survey
aimed at understanding consumer behavior with
respect to coin use9
Coin inventory and flow data from more than 20
coin ecosystem stakeholders,10 collected and
analyzed by the third-party consultant
Analysis of macroeconomic and demographic
datasets11 provided by the third-party consultant
and obtained from open-source databases12
Learnings from other global coin ecosystems,
central banks, and mints

A Cash-In-Transit firm (more commonly known as “armored car services”)
is a firm that provides outsourced services to store, transport, and handle
coin for the Federal Reserve Banks, Financial Institutions, and their clients.
8 Confidential stakeholder interviews included the Federal Reserve, the U.S.
Mint, financial institutions of all sizes, credit unions, large national retailers,
commercial associations, armored carriers, coin aggregators, and experts
from coin heavy industries (e.g., casinos, mass transit, laundromats, etc.).
The survey population was aligned to the US census demographics, fielded
anonymously, leveraged internet-based and phone-based platforms, and
developed to be congruous with the Diary of Consumer Payments Choice

(an annual Federal Reserve System survey that tracks consumer payment
All data received were handled per mutually agreed upon confidentiality
agreements. The participation, support, and willingness to share data of
ecosystem stakeholders were critical to the analysis.
11 These datasets include statistical abstracts of the United States
population and payment landscape
For example, the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice and Federal Reserve
Economic Data (FRED)


Chapter 2:
Root causes


For example, the purchasing power of a penny has declined more than
30x from 1900 to 2022 (per Federal Reserve data on inflation)


lthough coin was circulating relatively freely in
the years immediately before the COVID-19
pandemic (2015 – 2019), there were multiple
broad, secular macro-trends challenging the long-term
health of the ecosystem. These included the low utility
of consumer coin payments due to generational
inflation,13 and an accelerating shift away from cash
and toward digital payments14. In conjunction with
structural factors in the U.S. coin ecosystem (such as
low transparency into coin inventories and flows,
continued underinvestment in coin infrastructure, and
a more fragmented banking system in comparison with
other countries), these trends led to significant hidden
instability, and produced an environment that
compounded the pandemic-induced circulation


Per the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice, cash as a share of consumer
transactions declined from 31% in 2016 to 20% in 2021


From April of 2020, coin deposits from FIs to the
Federal Reserve Banks decreased by nearly 50% (an
average of 4.7 billion coins per month in 2019 versus
an average of 2.4 billion coins during the pandemic).
Meanwhile, coin demanded from the Federal Reserve
Banks did not decline in a commensurate way.15 The
data-backed analysis shows that the fall in deposits was
caused by disruptions across three primary pathways,
all related to consumer recirculation of coin, and one
secondary pathway (Figure 2):




Consumer use of coin at commercial service
providers (such as tolls, parking meters, mass

While Federal Reserve-imposed order allocations reduced the volume of
coin ordered by financial institutions, per third-party analysis of ecosystem
data and expert interviews, the actual demand for coin among financial
institutions (and their customers, such as grocers and convenience stores)
persisted at near pre-pandemic levels
Coin-intensive service providers represent those service providers (not
solely private-sector merchants) for whom coin served as a primary vehicle
for paying for goods and services

transit)16: A primary pathway, and the largest
contributor to the decline in recirculation
Consumer deposits directly to financial
institutions: A primary pathway, and the second
largest contributor to recirculation decline
Consumer redemptions at aggregators: A
primary pathway, which experienced a significant
decline during 2020, but is now recovering from
COVID-19 lows17
The emergence of side flows:18 A secondary
pathway, and not a major contributor to the
circulation decline


Per third-party data analysis, of 1Q’22, consumer deposits to aggregators
had recovered to within ~10% of 1Q’19
18 A “side flow” is an agreement in which an aggregator or one of their
financial institutions sends coin to a non-financial institution, coin
ecosystem participant instead of depositing that coin directly with the
Federal Reserve Banks


Prior to the pandemic, coin deposited through
commercial service providers, bank branches and
aggregators all made major contributions to coin
recirculation. However, the pandemic disrupted each
pathway in material and distinct ways. The primary
result of this disruption is that consumers, already the
largest holders of coin, increased their holdings by 1520%.19
Moreover, although some financial institutions
increased their inventories of coin to ensure they could
meet demand from clients, and to manage the
difficulties associated with moving coin from regions of
oversupply to regions of demand, they did so primarily
to protect their ability to serve their customers. While
this may have created added friction, the relative scale
of inventory increases (two to three billion pieces) was
much smaller than the declines in circulation from
eroding consumer pathways (15 to 25 billion pieces),
and therefore were not a primary factor in creating the
coin circulation challenge.
Finally, the U.S. coin ecosystem had key structural
factors that affected its state of health relative to other
peer countries - lower transparency, a higher
proportion of unbanked and underbanked citizens, a
greater fragmentation of the banking system, and a
higher share of production and circulation dedicated to
small denominations. These factors, which were in
some cases already being discussed by ecosystem
participants prior to the pandemic, exacerbated the
coin circulation challenge in the U.S. versus other peer
Each of the above pathways will be further discussed
(2a), impacts on the consumer (2b), frictions at
financial institutions (2c), and structural factors that
impacted the health of the U.S. coin ecosystem (2d) in
more detail.

2a: Discussion of circulating


Per third-party analysis of consumer coin jar growth
Coin-intensive service providers represent those service providers (not
solely private-sector merchants) for whom coin served as a primary vehicle
for settling cash transactions
21 Per third-party consumer survey data, consumer payment behaviors
shifted away from the use of physical currencies, such as coin

Consumer use of coin at commercial
service providers (net coin depositors)
Coin-intensive20 service providers (such as mass transit,
tolls and casinos) have traditionally served as a critical
pathway through which consumers returned coin to
the ecosystem. These service providers, in turn, would
deposit large volumes of coin to the Federal Reserve
Banks through their FIs. These coin-intensive service
providers constituted the core net-coin-depositing
institutions of the coin ecosystem and served the
critical role of providing a major pathway for
consumers to return coin back into circulation.
For the last decade or more, however, many of these
industries had already begun digitizing payment
options. The pandemic accelerated this digitization
process, and many consumers noted the increase in
digital options21 at these service providers (Figure 3),
especially the greater availability of debit and credit
card options. For example, during the pandemic, many
toll roads accelerated their move away from cash and
coin, and toward a system of subsequent billing of the
consumer through photographing the license plate or
via transponder tags (e.g., EZ Pass). Indeed, several
mass-transit systems entirely discontinued the
acceptance of cash. The analysis also indicates a
significant increase in the use of credit, debit, and
payment cards at laundry machines and casinos.
Moreover, the pandemic made hybrid or remote work
much more common, and this may have fundamentally
reshaped consumers’ long-term behaviors with respect
to some coin-intensive industries.22
Many of these industries saw declines in coin use of
40% or more.23 This resulted in a major decrease in
deposits from financial institutions to the Federal
Reserve Banks. As noted at the beginning of this
section, this change is part of a broader secular trend
toward the digitization of payments, and so many of
the deposits previously sourced through this pathway
are unlikely to return.


Polzin, Steven; and Tony Choi. (2021). COVID-19’s Effects on The Future
of Transportation. United States Department of Transportation, Office of
23 Third-party analysis of industry reports, data provided by FIs, and expert


Consumer deposits directly to Financial
Consumer coin deposits directly to FIs (and
subsequently to the Federal Reserve Banks) declined
to a significant degree over the course of the
pandemic. This decline was caused, in part, by an
acceleration of secular trends in banking that were

already underway, as well as by changes in consumer
behavior. The decline of consumer coin deposits at FI
branches has been a secular trend,24 given their cost
for FIs, complexity, operational risk, and declining
consumer utility relative to other services provided by
FIs to consumers. As a result of these trends, many FIs
have stopped accepting loose coin deposits and
removed coin-counting machines from their branches.

In addition, while many bank branches only closed
temporarily as part of public health measures
associated with the pandemic, the pre-existing trend
towards digital banking and branch consolidation
accelerated during this period. Throughout the
industry, FIs have been slowly consolidating their
branch networks and shifting to smaller footprints that
focus on value-added services (such as financial
advisory), rather than transactions (such as check

cashing and deposits, cash and coin deposits, and
withdrawals). During the pandemic, net branch
closures increased from approximately 1.2% per year
in 2014 - 2019 (around 1,600 net branch closures per
year) to 2% (2,500 net branch closures per year)25.
Furthermore, the pandemic altered the expectations of
consumers when it came to engaging with physical
bank branches, as they became still more accustomed



Confidential third-party stakeholder and expert interviews (n=60+)

Per S&P Global Market Intelligence and FDIC data


to fewer in-person interactions, such as for the
depositing of checks, cash, and coins.
These trends, put together, resulted in declining
consumer coin deposits to their FIs.

remained, and will likely continue to be, relatively
small,27 preliminary data from the first quarter of 2022
gives some indication that they have continued to
grow, possibly due to persistent retailer demand for
coin in order to have change available for cash

Consumer redemptions at aggregators
Consumer redemptions at aggregators dropped
sharply during the initial phases of the pandemic.
However, this decline was only temporary, as
consumers’ use of coin aggregator services in 2022 has
nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels. Despite this
rebound in consumer pours,26 aggregator deposits to
the Federal Reserve Banks via their FIs continue to be
at a level somewhat below that of the rebound in
consumers depositing coin with aggregators. This is
likely to be due to the growth of side flows (such as the
sales of coin to retailers) and greater use of aggregator
coin by FIs to meet their clients’ needs for coin
(discussed more in the following section).

Persistent coin demand despite
decreased consumer coin utility
Although consumers sharply reduced their use of
coin at traditionally coin-intensive service
providers, overall demand for coin as a settlement
instrument for cash transactions (i.e., to provide
change) among retail, grocery and other
commercial merchants has been persistent for
three key reasons:

The emergence of side flows
In its simplest form, a side flow is an agreement by
which an aggregator (or other non-FI ecosystem
stakeholder) sells coin to a retailer (potentially via a
non-FI third party) rather than depositing that coin to
the Federal Reserve Banks via an FI. This trend emerged
as retailers faced a declining supply of coins from FIs
and increasingly sought alternative channels to
procure coin. Although the volume of side flows has


Consumers “pour” coin to redeem value at loose coin machines, often
operated by coin aggregators
27 The cost and complexity of arranging for a side flow is larger than that of
depositing coin directly to a financial institution
Side flows continue to recirculate coin via the private coin ecosystem and
not the Federal Reserve Banks. However, they may add costs to retailers
and friction to the coin circulation ecosystem


Cash use at merchants has remained high
among key customer segments, including
lower-income and underbanked customers.29


Large retailers have increased their adoption
of self-checkout machines, which require up
to three times the amount of coin inventory
to operate.30
There was continued consumer demand
during the pandemic for in-store financial
services (such as cash checking) offered by
many large retailers, reinforcing the need for
coin to settle transactions.



Per third-party proprietary data, U.S. consumer cash transactions have
declined at 2.4% per annum from 2007 to 2021, with primary users driven
by consumer groups who continue to prefer cash as a transaction medium
30 Self-checkout machines require more coin given their programming for
cash transaction settlement and the relatively higher rate of low-value,
high-throughput transactions, which are more frequently settled using cash


2b: Impacts on the consumer
While circulation pathways declined, consumer coin
jars, which were already the largest pocket of actively
circulating coin,31 expanded by as much as 15 – 20%.32
This is primarily due to the perceived lack of utility of
coin as a payment method. When asked about their
planned uses for coin, only one third of consumers
stated that they plan to use their coin for payments
(Figure 4). This reluctance is partly due to the
accelerated growth of digital payments during the
pandemic, but also a result of generational inflation


“Actively circulating” coin refers to coin that has not entirely dropped
from the U.S. financial system or consumer utility (e.g., lost, destroyed,
exported to a foreign country). Some of this coin may only circulate every
few years, but it still eventually recirculates through the financial system

that has impacted the value of goods that can be
purchased by using coins as a form of payment.
As a result, consumers increasingly hold coin at home,
in coin jars. The median household33 now holds $60 $90 in coins (the equivalent of one to two 16-ounce
cups or a medium-sized piggy bank),34 a figure that
has grown as pathways to recirculate coin have
declined. Additionally, when asked why consumers do
not redeem their coins more frequently, the most
common answer was that it was not worth the effort
to do so (Figure 5).


Per analysis completed in partnership with the third-party consultant on
the size and growth of coin jars and actively circulating coin
33 Assuming 122MM households per the U.S. Census
34 Third-party consumer survey findings


In the context of the current coin circulation challenge,
the growth of consumer coin jars poses an obstacle to
improving coin circulation. While retailers and FIs
struggle to meet coin demand (given that retailers
provide more change than they receive), most coin is
sitting in coin jars across the country. Currently, more
than 60% ($10-$14 billion) of actively circulating coin
sits in coin jars. During the pandemic, up to $2 billion
may have been added to coin jars as coin-intensive


payments and coin deposits rapidly declined. Notably,
almost half of coin jar value is held by non-redeemers
and infrequent redeemers of coin (Figure 6),35 adding
to the challenge of revitalizing coin circulation.

Third-party consumer survey findings


2c: Frictions at Financial Institutions
As described above, decreasing deposits of coin,
caused by the erosion of consumer pathways to use
coin, together with persistent demand for coin, created
challenges for FIs. Furthermore, allocation limits
imposed by the FRB, which were intended to distribute
a scarce supply of coin in the most equitable fashion
possible (and did so, given the currently limited data on
true demand available to the FRB),36 prevented many
FIs from receiving sufficient coin to compensate fully
for any difference between their own deposits and
orders. Moreover, although the U.S. Mint and FRB
could probably have increased their contingency
inventory of coin by five billion pieces or more to
provide a buffer for such a black swan event, given the

Per analysis of FRB and ecosystem data

magnitude of the circulation gap (around 15 to 25
billion pieces per year) they would still have had to
impose allocation limits at some point.
As a result, some FIs maintained or increased their coin
inventory levels in an effort to maintain a sufficient
safety stock of coin for their customers. Total FI
inventory declined slightly in 2020 and 2021 but rose in
the first quarter of 2022 (Figure 7).37
These inventory trends were also affected by regional
imbalances. As coin availability tightened, regional
imbalances between coin supply and demand at FIs
also emerged. In addition to the FRB efforts to transfer
and balance inventories across locations, many FIs
faced challenges in moving inventory to balance

37 Per analysis completed by the third-party consultant based on data shared

by coin ecosystem participants


increased demand in one region with excess supply in
another. Since coin is physically cumbersome to
transport, regional imbalances became more difficult
to resolve as a result of limited visibility into local
inventory, the lack of availability of trucks and labor to

move inventory, and price increases for transportation.
These factors created inherent friction in supply chains,
leading to trapped regional inventory that could not be
readily deployed to meet demand.

Implications for coin velocity and
inventory management at Financial

This decrease in inventory turns resulted from a
significant decrease in coin outflows from FIs despite
relatively similar aggregate inventory levels between
2019 and 2021. Although this may suggest that FIs are
holding relatively more inventory than they used to
hold when serving their customers’ pre-pandemic
needs, there are multiple complexities that led to the
relatively higher inventory levels versus outflows.

As FIs continued to receive less coin from their
consumer and commercial clients, their ability to move
coin rapidly through their supply chain (velocity)
declined. From 2019 to 2021, the number of inventory
turns (outflows / average inventory)38 of coin at FIs fell
by approximately 30% (Figure 8).39


Inventory turns are defined as the outflow of inventory in a given time
period normalized by the average inventory level. For the purpose of this
study, the total number of pieces of coin that financial institutions

distributed in a given year divided by the average number of pieces held by
financial institutions were measured.
39 Per analysis of coin ecosystem data shared with the third-party consultant



2d: Structural challenges impacting
the health of the coin ecosystem:
In addition to the secular decline in deposits via
consumer pathways, and changing circulation patterns
of coin through FIs, there were also key structural
challenges that affected the health of the U.S. coin
ecosystem. These challenges existed prior to the
pandemic, and greatly exacerbated the impact of the
circulation challenge in the U.S. in comparison with
other developed, highly digitized countries. When
analyzed, four key factors emerged in the U.S. coin
ecosystem relative to other peer countries:



The U.S. has a much higher percentage of
unbanked and underbanked individuals relative
to peer countries,40 leading to a greater
dependence on cash and coin as a method of

Per official government databases: U.S. unbanked population is ~6%
(20MM individuals), vs. 1-3% (1-3MM) in UK, Canada, and others


A less transparent coin ecosystem: Many other
countries (such as UK, Canada, and India) have
greater transparency into coin demand,
circulation, and inventory. This results from
central bank, mint, and FI participation in
centrally managed demand forecasting and
inventory management systems.
A large percentage of U.S. coin production is
dedicated to low-value denominations (for
example, more than 50% of 2021 U.S. circulating
coin produced was pennies), which have been
phased out in many other countries. Given
limitations in current capacity, this makes it
difficult for the mint to increase production of
higher denominations.41
A more fragmented financial institution
landscape exists in the U.S. versus many other
developed countries. For example, there are
more than 10,000 financial institutions in the
U.S.42 compared to 100+ in other highly
developed countries. Collaboration


For example, Canada rationalized the penny, which freed up Mint
production capacity to focus on higher denominations
42 Per the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


communication across the ecosystem are
inherently more challenging as a consequence.43

cash transactions, and therefore demand for coin
as a method of settlement, declined during
COVID,44 it fell much more slowly than the supply
of recirculated coin.

Key takeaways:

3. Challenging, pre-existing structural factors in
the U.S. coin ecosystem. Some of these factors
stem from policy or macroeconomics (such as the
unbanked and underbanked population, and the
fragmented financial institution landscape),
while others are caused by sustained
underinvestment in coin infrastructure (for
example, the lack of transparency with regard to
coin circulation and inventory).

Although there have been many contributing factors to
the U.S. circulation challenge, the key root causes are:
1. The accelerating shift to digital payments among
net-coin-depositing merchants (such as mass
transit, laundromats, tolls, casinos). This is a
secular trend, and therefore unlikely to reverse to
any significant degree.
2. The persistence of cash transactions that require
settlement with coins. Although the number of


A small number of FIs in Canada and the United Kingdom are involved in
coin circulation, and many of these FIs share demand data with the Mint


Per third-party proprietary data


Chapter 3:
Potential solutions
and implications
for the path ahead

Overview of solutions that address
root causes


e have seen that several interconnected
root causes underpin the ongoing
disruption in the coin supply chain that
emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the
complexity and scope of the problem, solving the
circulation challenge is too great a task for any one
stakeholder or stakeholder group, and there are no
rapid, low-cost, or simple solutions that would have a
meaningful impact on the crisis.
Furthermore, the disruption has now persisted for two
years, and analysis suggests that it is unlikely to solve
itself. The structural factors that exacerbated the
severity of the circulation challenge still exist, such as
the lack of transparency due to chronic
underinvestment in coin infrastructure and will
continue to be a major source of risk.


Given these conditions, solutions must reflect a
landscape for physical coin that is likely to have been
permanently altered by secular trends. This changed
landscape also leads to significant costs and frictions
for ecosystem participants. For example, many
retailers have had to round transactions to the nearest
five cent increment (or in some cases to 10, 25 or dollar
increments), reallocate labor (or in some cases hire
employees), develop the new IT solutions necessary to
manage the alternatives to providing change at point
of sale, and pay incremental fees to purchase coin from
private suppliers.
Due to the magnitude and persistence of the challenge,
the FRB and U.S. Mint, in partnership with the thirdparty consultant, took a holistic look at potential
solutions. First, an unconstrained view45 of potential
solutions was developed based on inputs from:

Learnings from peer Central Banks
Solutions proposed by several stakeholders
across the ecosystem
Case studies from other industries that have
addressed similar challenges

Through these sources, 33 potential solutions were
identified that span both traditional initiatives (such as
boosting consumer awareness or increasing
transparency within the supply chain) and newer
potential interventions (such as creating mobile loose
coin deposit locations or promoting greater private
competition and ownership). In partnership with the
third-party consultant, this unconstrained list of
solutions was subsequently evaluated through an
impact and feasibility analysis.
As there has been no single cause of the circulation
challenge, there is no single solution. After the
prioritization process, a shortlist of solution options
was identified across four key pillars that combine to
form a holistic solution approach, summarized below:


Pillar #1: Increased transparency
Pillar #2: Improved inventory management
Pillar #3: Denomination shifts

An unconstrained view of the solution space reflects all major solutions
identified, even if not subsequently prioritized upon assessment for
feasibility and impact
46 Control Tower is defined as a system that ingests, analyzes and visualizes
data and business metrics to provide a multi-layered and multi-component
view of the value chain, enabling improved inventory management and
demand forecasting


Pillar #4: Reinforced consumer pathways

Pillar #1: Increased transparency
Prior to the coin circulation challenge, most ecosystem
stakeholders did not have visibility into the overall flow
and inventory of coins at an ecosystem level, and some
even had challenges tracking these same metrics at a
detailed level within their own footprints. Moreover,
there was no clear central authority for ecosystemwide data. This prevented ecosystem stakeholders
from rapidly diagnosing the root causes of the
circulation challenge and added friction to ecosystem
stakeholders’ ability to efficiently match coin supply
with demand. Improved ecosystem data and
transparency would have also enabled the FRB to
improve their allocation approach via real-time
demand analysis.
In order to improve ecosystem-wide transparency and
optimize the distribution of coin, the coin ecosystem
could launch a Control Tower (a data management and
analysis system)46 for coin inventory, flows, and
demand. This Control Tower would operate by using
data shared by participants throughout the ecosystem
(such as the Federal Reserve / U.S. Mint, FIs, and
CITs).47 In an initial phase, the Control Tower could
undergo a pilot test using manually submitted data on
coin stocks and flows shared by FIs and CITs with the
Federal Reserve. The Control Tower could then be
automated and enhanced with advanced analytical
tools to boost visibility considerably.
The launch and success of the Control Tower would
require the support and participation of a broad set of
ecosystem participants (such as the data from FIs and
CITs)48, but at the same time could improve the
participants’ ability to manage coin efficiently (in
preliminary discussions, many of these parties
indicated they would be willing to support such an
effort). For example, the Control Tower would mean

The Federal Reserve could ensure supply and
demand are better matched with available coin


For example, the Control Tower could source inventory data from CITs,
order and deposit data from FIs, new coin production data from the U.S.
Mint, FRB circulation data from the Federal Reserve, and additional
consumer data from aggregators
For example, new data sharing agreements between FIs, CITs, and the
Federal Reserve / U.S. Mint may need to be developed.



The Mint could improve the efficiency of the
production process to meet total demand and
demand by denomination
CITs could manage inventory in greater pools in a
considered way, leading to lower costs
FIs and retailers could understand and manage
true coin demand, leading to improved efficiency
and better service

The free flow of data, active participation in Control
Tower pilots, and investments in data and reporting
among ecosystem participants, would enable the
Control Tower to have a greater impact in improving
coin circulation. The Control Tower could also be
extended to adjacent products (such as cash) to build
future-proofing into the circulation of other forms of
money issued by the central bank, and reduce the risk
of black swan circulation shocks such as those that
occurred with coin.

Pillar #2: Inventory Management
Low ecosystem transparency has been a persistent
challenge in the coin ecosystem and made it more
difficult to diagnose and resolve the coin circulation
challenge. The low level of transparency can in part be
explained by the fact that coin is a lower priority for
many ecosystem stakeholders, and that little
significant investment is therefore devoted to
inventory and demand management tools. Along with
greater visibility, improved inventory management
processes (stemming from that visibility) would enable
ecosystem stakeholders to improve the way they tackle
regional imbalances in coin supply and demand and
operate with more efficient coin inventories. Looking
at best practices from other industries that have widely
distributed inventory and large recycling components
(such as healthcare and bottling), three potential
opportunities to improve coin ecosystem inventory
management were identified:
1. Multi-nodal inventory management: Initially,
ecosystem participants could adopt multi-nodal
inventory management practices. In a multi-nodal
approach, ecosystem participants would work to
increase visibility into inventories and demand
across operational nodes (such as third-party coin
vaults and bank branches) through more robust
internal inventory management tools and possibly


Kanban is a methodology that is used to operate supply chains in
extremely lean fashion by relying on ‘pull’ to deliver inventory. For coin, this

greater data sharing across institutions. This data
would then be utilized to manage inventories
through a coordinated approach across nodes. In
certain cases, ecosystem participants could
collaborate to manage inventories jointly, or these
inventory management practices could be
codified through updates to operating circulars,
coin terminal agreements or other policies. These
solutions would allow for greater efficiency,
speed, and flexibility in meeting customer
demand, potentially also leading to reduced
regional imbalances.
2. Kanban methodology:49 Ecosystem participants
could also improve inventory management by
implementing inventory control systems that
better align orders to coin demand. For example,
participants could apply the Kanban methodology,
through which participants could track production
and quickly identify when coin stocks are running
low. Through this methodology, ecosystem
participants would order according to their
immediate, predicted demand. This could limit the
buildup of excess inventory and reduce
inefficiencies and cost as a result of shipping coin
to locations where there may be limited demand.
This methodology would be predicated on a
holistic understanding of coin demand and the
consistent availability of supply to meet coin
3. Refined allocation methodology: Lastly, with
better data sharing across the ecosystem, the
Federal Reserve could refine the allocation
methodology to reflect true demand for coin from
clients of FIs more accurately (the key constraint
in the current allocation methodology).
Allocations would be refined by utilizing coin
inventory and circulation data collected as part of
a Control Tower pilot, thus improving the Federal
Reserve’s visibility into coin demand. By
partnering closely, the Federal Reserve and FIs
could also test the removal or loosening of
allocation limits in certain regions.
Each of these solutions could be enabled by data
sharing and coordination through a Control Tower
designed to improve visibility into inventories and
demand. For example, an automated Control Tower

would mean that a client would order coin only when they have demand
and carry minimal buffer stock.


would use advanced analytics to refine demand
forecasts for ecosystem participants.
Overall, improvements in inventory management
would have a significant impact on coin circulation,
with ongoing efficiency gains in meeting demand and
likely leading to a lower total ecosystem cost. However,
such improvements will depend on broad participation
and data sharing from the ecosystem if meaningful
value is to be created.

Pillar #3: Denomination shifts

In the near term, the coin ecosystem could also explore
the impact of a larger shift in penny production through
a series of data-backed discussions and studies on
rounding, total cost to circulate, and market incentives
(such as pricing and fees). This would ensure that any
future planning with regard to significant shifts in the
denomination mix is based on a comprehensive body
of facts. Data from existing studies could be used as a
starting point, and then augmented with additional
research where it is thought to be needed. Insights
from these studies should be communicated to
ecosystem stakeholders and policymakers.
Moreover, learnings from other countries that have
implemented rounding (such as Canada and Ireland)
should be studied to understand the impacts that
rounding had on retailers, consumers, and the

Given the persistent demand for coin and declining
recirculation, producing coin at a level that would fill
the gap between demand and recirculated coin has
become a significant challenge for the Mint. Without
changes in current circulation patterns, the volume of
coin required to meet demand is currently above the
U.S. Mint’s production capacity (and currently limited
raw material supplies) of around 14.5 billion coins per
year. One possible option would be to follow the lead
of many other countries and reduce production of
lower denomination coins.50 In addition to high
production volume of the penny, it also has other
societal challenges, including a high cost to produce51
and circulate.52


The Federal Reserve and Mint could explore changing
the mix of denominations, for example, by reducing
penny production and shifting that capacity to higher
denominations. This measure could help meet coin
demand more efficiently, thus addressing the above
capacity constraints without the need for a new Mint
facility. Changing the mix of new coin production could
also reduce the total number of pieces that other
ecosystem participants must store, handle, and
transport, likely reducing total ecosystem costs.
This shift in production would be carried out over a
multi-year period with data-backed stage gates, and a
test-and-learn approach, to ensure that no negative
ramifications ensue within the coin ecosystem (such as
the risk of overwhelming flowback). By using a databacked approach to shifting production over time, the
U.S. Mint can shift capacity in a considered manner in
order to align with any future changes in demand.


Over half of all circulating coins minted in 2021 were pennies
Per the U.S. Mint 2021 Annual Report, the 2021 unit cost of production
for the penny was 2.1 cents

The current cost of circulating the penny
through the coin ecosystem: While it is well
known that pennies cost more than two cents to
manufacture, there is less clarity on the current
ecosystem-wide costs of penny circulation (which
have also risen considerably due to fuel costs and
labor inflation). Two key questions to consider
might be:
o What are the ecosystem-wide costs in
recirculating a penny, and do they exceed
the face value of the penny?
o What are the environmental impacts of
continuing to produce and circulate pennies
(for example, raw materials extraction,
carbon emissions, fuel used during

This data could then be used to facilitate a series of
cross-industry discussions on the economics of the

Market incentives (such as charging a fee on
orders of new coins) could also be explored as a
means to reduce demand incrementally. A study
should consider the impacts of market incentives
on coin demand, retailer costs, as well as the
impacts for consumers and other ecosystem

If these studies show substantial evidence in favor of
reducing the production of new pennies, then a more


Initial analysis shows that the societal cost (costs to consumers, retailers,
FIs, and other ecosystem participants) to recirculate an existing penny may
be higher than its face value


significant shift in future production could be
considered (such as drastically reducing or ending the
production of the penny). This would require broad
support from the ecosystem. It would also require a
detailed change management and communications
plan, with multiple data-backed stage gates to reduce
execution risk. One key risk from a larger shift in penny
production is a significant flowback of coin from
consumers and businesses seeking to turn in their
pennies. This risk can be carefully managed by
extending the duration of the shift over a multi-year
period, by ensuring there is transparency in the
ecosystem to mitigate excess build-up, and by
developing a robust plan to store, transport and recycle
returned pennies. However, given its potential
magnitude, this risk must also be studied further
through a cross-industry working group to ensure
appropriate mitigation planning is in place.

coin-accepting equipment.
This would save
stakeholders from having to make significantly costly
financial and capital investment in altered or new

As well as solving the circulation challenge, a reduction
in penny production could save up to $100 million per
year for the U.S. Mint.53

The ecosystem must first consider rebuilding
circulation pathways and encouraging consumers to
return their coins before embarking on investment in
new production capacity. These efforts would include
a large consumer awareness campaign, including a call
to action, and new pathways to deposit loose coin. The
first steps would likely involve pilots to test awareness
campaigns, and small-scale loose-coin depositing

The Mint has also researched alternative metals to
modify the metallic composition of circulating coins.
The goals of the research have been the reduction of
costs and/or an increase in suppliers.
considered in the research include maintaining the
same diameter and weight as current coinage, ensuring
that the coins will work interchangeably in most coin
acceptors using electromagnetic signature technology,
and have as minimal an adverse impact as possible on
the public and stakeholders. The Mint continues to
research new metallic materials or technologies for the
production of circulating coinage to enhance coin
supply and operations. However, the Mint does not
currently have authority to change the composition of
the coins without new legislative authority. Should
such legislation be enacted, the Mint could reasonably
consider a transition to revised compositions for the
five-cent, ten-cent, and quarter-dollar coin
denominations and continue development of other
potentially seamless alternatives, which could result in
increased raw material supply, reduced manufacturing
costs and increased seigniorage. Such a transition
could occur within a few years after enactment of
legislation. The term “seamless” indicates that these
alternatives would require no or minimal changes to


Third-party analysis of U.S. Mint financial data. Based on the negative
seigniorage earned on all existing penny production.

Pillar #4: Reinforced consumer
As discussed previously, the COVID-19 pandemic
changed consumer behavior with respect to circulating
coin, while consumers at the same time increased their
home coin holdings. However, given U.S. Mint capacity
constraints, moves to increase coin production to fill
the coin gap would present challenges and generate
significant long-term environmental and social

An awareness campaign would need a broad scope and
national reach in order to exert a meaningful impact on
circulation,54 as well as targeted regional, digital, and
partnership marketing efforts. This awareness
campaign should be executed through multiple
channels, such as social media, mass media, and
partnerships, and via both mass market and precision
targeting methodologies. Partnerships with nonprofits, technology companies, retailers, and sports
teams or large events could be used to boost
awareness and provide temporary deposit options for
redeeming coin.
In order to refine the ecosystem’s view of consumer
behaviors and drivers, an effective consumer
awareness campaign would need to be grounded in
rigorous consumer research. Multiple campaign pilots
should be deployed to gather preliminary data on the
approaches that would achieve the best return on


Media campaigns often have low conversion rates and thus benefit from
an increased reach. A broader campaign reach would also be beneficial
because consumers coin jars exist nationwide


investment. For example, focusing investments on
areas with high large, easily activated coin jars or low
coin circulation should be considered. The impact of
pilots could be measured, and learnings could then be
used to refine campaign strategy, assets, and targeting.
For this initiative to be successful, it will require
sophisticated marketing capabilities, either in
partnership with a marketing firm or using coin
ecosystem assets, and a likely media expenditure in the
tens of millions of dollars.55
The coin ecosystem could also collaborate to increase
the coin deposit pathways available to consumers. This
could be done through the addition of new loose coin
deposit machines at FI branches in various
communities. Importantly, such an effort would run
counter to the trend toward bank branch consolidation
and a shift to smaller branch formats. This initiative
would require working with FIs to manage any
concerns they have concerning the potential liability
and operational risk of installing coin pouring
machines, both of which have historically been barriers
for FIs in this regard. The inclusion of new coin deposit
machines in bank branches would offer a scalable
avenue for increasing coin deposit pathways.
To test this avenue, a set of regional pilots could be
conducted in partnership with interested FIs. Data and
learnings from the pilots could be used to create a
scaled campaign with more FI partners. To explore
more coin deposit pathways, additional pilots could
place coin deposit machines at non-FI locations, such
as retailers or government-owned buildings.
In order to maximize impact, creating new coin deposit
pathways should be combined with the consumer
awareness campaign discussed above. This would build
awareness about newly introduced coin deposit
options, driving greater redemptions. It could also
create opportunities to introduce and promote novel
campaigns, such as charity donation events, or
introducing new partnerships with aggregators.

Key enablers of solution roadmap
Five key enablers can support the solution pillars
discussed in this chapter:


A joint operating model between the solution
leaders and ecosystem
Key technology assets
Data, marketing, and public relations talent
Thought leadership on denomination shifts
Change management planning

Each enabler is briefly discussed in the following

A joint operating model: In order to ensure
accountability and a cohesive approach to driving
change, the owners of the solution roadmap
should develop a joint operating and governance
model. This model would require engagement
and input from all ecosystem stakeholders but
require clear and cohesive leadership from the
ultimate solution owner(s).


Key technology assets: There are two key
technology assets: a Control Tower to create
transparency for stocks, flows and demand for
coin and a marketing technology stack (the tools
and software required to run and measure the
impact of advertising campaigns). The Control
Tower would enable more efficient inventory
management and demand forecasting, while the
marketing technology stack would support more
impactful and efficient pilots and consumer
awareness campaigns (such as through tracking
impact and collecting feedback, enabling rapid
adaptation in response).


Data, marketing, and public relations talent:
Skilled talent would be required to drive key
initiatives across the roadmap. Data and analytics
staff would be needed to support a Control
Tower. Specialized marketing talent would be
needed to execute consumer awareness
initiatives. Finally, public relations talent would
be required to communicate changes and
insights across the ecosystem, with policy makers
and with consumers.
Thought leadership on denomination shifts:
There is currently a limited body of data-backed
analysis that could improve the understanding of
the impact of shifting low-value denominations
out of circulation. In order to attain such an
understanding, the ecosystem must jointly



Some of the cost could potentially be offset by thoughtful use of U.S.
Government public relations assets, channels and leveraging key officials to
amplify messaging


undertake and communicate studies to quantify
the impacts of rounding, the societal cost of
penny circulation, and the effects of market
incentives (such as pricing). Insights from these
studies, as well as any other thought leadership
(such as outcomes of pilots), should be broadly
communicated across the ecosystem, to policy
makers and to the public. This will ensure that all
parties can make fact-based decisions that are in
their best interests and in the best interests of
the American public.

Change management and public relations
planning: A change management function would
be required to manage communication and
ensure execution across the solution pillars. This
office could lead coordination across pillars,
centralizing strategic planning and operations.
This function would also be responsible for
managing the risk from any large-scale initiatives
(such as moving away from the penny) and
ensuring open and consistent communication
among ecosystem stakeholders by partnering
with public relations assets to develop and
implement cohesive internal and external


Near-term support from ecosystem
By working together to build transformative change,
the coin ecosystem has the opportunity to build a
better future. To facilitate this coordinated effort,
many participants will need to play a role in the
development and execution of solutions. A strong
foundation of transparent data shared across
ecosystem participants will aid this process. A few
specific data contributions could be especially valuable
in the near term to promote greater transparency:

FI and CIT data sharing on coin inventories and
flows. Even if shared via manual file transmission,
this data could enable the ecosystem to create a
rapid and cohesive view of the coin supply,
improving the distribution of coin and reducing
coin shortages.


Shadow orders: Shadow order data, presenting
an unconstrained view of demand, could provide
a more complete view of coin demand in the
ecosystem relative to current orders, which are
constrained by allocations (both at FRB and FI
levels). This more comprehensive view could
enable upstream ecosystem participants to
improve demand forecasting and hence the way
they manage production, circulation, and

Success drivers of solutions roadmap
In addition, there are four critical principles that will
underpin the success of any coin ecosystem
transformation, as follows:



Open communication between ecosystem
participants is vital in order to ensure alignment
and coordinate where necessary. This should
include a willingness to share data (see Control
Tower) in the knowledge that this will help to
ease the overall circulation challenge and
develop a more resilient, transparent, and
efficient coin ecosystem.
Ecosystem support is critical throughout the
solution lifecycle, including in the selection of
high-impact solutions, solution design, and joint
investment (where required). The circulation
challenge is larger than any single institution, and
all parties must work together to solve the issue.
Transparency of data and information (for
example via a Control Tower) helps to target
solutions and improves visibility into the impacts
of solutions on coin circulation and on each
ecosystem participant.

Adoption of a test-and-learn philosophy across
all solution pillars will offer ecosystem
participants the flexibility to refine or adjust
solutions, and also reduce the long-term risk
resulting from the implementation.

A bold opportunity for the future
While the coin circulation challenge is a complex
problem with few rapid or simple solutions, it also
presents an opportunity for the coin ecosystem to
invest in a transformative future. Together with the
support of the coin ecosystem, the U.S. Mint and the
Federal Reserve are committed to creating meaningful
change to solve the circulation challenge and move
toward the vision of a more transparent, resilient, and
efficient ecosystem. In doing so, the ecosystem can:

Ensure equitable access to central bank money
and therefore better serve the needs of millions
of U.S. consumers who use cash and coin on a
regular basis.



Build a template to improve the management of
future shocks and build resilience in the
Enhance the efficiency and reduce the societal
costs of circulating coin.
Engender long-term trust within the coin
ecosystem and with the American public.
Develop best-in-breed capabilities for coin
management among global financial systems.

The U.S. Mint and the Federal Reserve extend our
appreciation for the ecosystem-wide engagement that
enabled this report. As part of this study, stakeholders
across FIs, retailers, armored carriers, aggregators, the
U.S. Mint, and the Federal Reserve Banks all devoted
time and careful consideration to support the insights
and analysis completed by the third-party consultant
described herein. In particular, we thank cash and coin
supply managers and their teams who invested time to
develop datasets required for this study and sat down
for multiple interviews to advance the evolution of this
study’s findings.