I have to thank fellow blogger Bill Polley for this link. Joseph Sternberg of The Asian Wall Street Journal wrote an interesting column for the De Gustibus section of The Wall Street Journal. He shared his tendency to avoid carrying change and how, in Hong Kong, he found himself with a sizeable pile of coinage. Not having access to the change counting machines found in many U.S. grocery stores, he took his change to his bank. They were perplexed at first, but rose to the occasion. After counting the coins they deposited the proceeds to his account and returned him one U.S. cent.
The piece brought back memories for me. When I was at my former position with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, I was told by someone that the Seventh District was the largest user of coin in the Federal Reserve System. I don't know if this is still the case, but I would often share this trivia with teachers and tour groups, giving them an opportunity to speculate on the reason.
People from the greater Chicago metro area often cited toll roads. I would then remind them that Chicago was not representative of the rest of the district - and had a lot more toll roads than other parts of the five-state area. Other reasons were related to the transit system and casinos. I then told them that I was told one reason was the penchant of Midwesterners to hoard coins rather than circulate them. And while I'm sure other folks in other parts of the country (and the world, apparently) share this same habit, Midwesterners do it as well as any and maybe better.
I often recounted the tale of the penny shortage in the late 1990s. There was a news story about a gentleman in Indianapolis who bought a brand-new, all-the-options pickup truck. Paid cash -- all pennies. The news story reported the cost of the truck was in excess of $25,000. You do the math. Now that's keeping the change. (The opportunity cost in lost interest must have been significant. And maybe liquidity preference is a factor.)
Anyone else have good stories to share about change hoarding?