Counting Money With Coins

Counting money with coins is a valuable skill for kids, and it also helps reinforce the concepts of addition, skip counting and the value of dollars and cents. To make it easier, it’s best to start with the largest values — for example, quarters and dimes — and work your way down to the pennies. Adding like values together is another useful strategy: For example, adding three nickels and two pennies to get a dollar’s worth of change.

Coins are made of metal, silver or an alloy and carry their own intrinsic value. They are minted and then distributed by the federal government and circulate throughout the country.

The United States Mint makes coins, and the Federal Reserve distributes them through depository institutions. Each year, the U.S. mint produces about 8.3 billion coins. Most of those coins are deposited in Federal Reserve Banks, where they are processed and prepared for circulation. The Fed has 28 cash offices that provide services to about 8,400 banks, savings and loans, credit unions and other financial entities.

When a coin is designed, a Mint artist sketches what they want the coin to look like. Then they make a model of the coin from clay or use a computer program to create a digital image. Once the design is finalized, the Mint uses a machine called a die to stamp the design onto the blanks, or raw coins. The finished coins are then weighed, counted and inspected before being sent to the Fed’s regional banking centers for distribution.

Once a coin is in circulation, it can last 30 years or more before it becomes too worn to continue working. Once a coin is no longer useful, the Federal Reserve removes it from circulation and melts them down for other purposes.

While most people are still using cash, a growing number of consumers are turning to digital currencies known as cryptocurrencies. While these have a host of advantages over traditional currencies, they can also be challenging to manage. Some cryptocurrencies are backed by physical assets, while others are not. And there are concerns that some cryptocurrencies may be used for illegal activities, such as money laundering and sanctions evasion.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many consumers are hoarding spare change in their homes. But there are ways to put that change back into circulation, such as using it for purchases and depositing it at the bank.

Most big banks will exchange rolled coins for free, and some offer coin-counting machines. Some also offer a service to pay customers through check or debit card, but those charges can add up. Another option is to give your change to a friend or charity. They’ll appreciate it, and you’ll have helped them get rid of their clutter while helping the community. Heather Hennerich is a senior editor with the St. Louis Fed’s External Engagement and Corporate Communications division. Her blog focuses on everyday economics, consumer topics and the Fed.