Not Martha

How much is a pound of coins worth? (Take two.)

a stack of coins

We recently hauled all of our collected loose change out to count and roll. Two years ago we did the same thing and I wanted to compare. We went ahead and sorted our coins by hand because there isn’t a bank around us with a free coin sorting machine and Coinstar takes enough of a percentage* that we consider the labor worth it (at least when it comes to nearly 20 pounds of coins). Happily our bank does give out paper coin rolls for free. So all it takes is some time in front of the television (two and a half 45-minute shows) and some beer to make it fun. Almost.

To speed things along and keep us from getting tired of counting (and, let’s face it, because I had too much time to think about this) I drew some grids on paper to be filled with coins. Rolls of quarters and nickles take 40 coins, and rolls of dimes and pennies take 50 coins. Grids in inches were great for all coin sizes. We made one sheet with 40 squares and one sheet with 50 squares.

Last time I found some stats that say mixed coins generally work out to be worth $12.96 per pound. Two years ago I suspected we’d used a lot of the quarters for parking but our average wasn’t too far below the guideline. This time we had 19 pounds and 15.75 ounces and, thanks to Seattle’s new parking meters which take credit cards, lots of quarters. Let’s compare!

amount per pound of coins
two years ago: $11.27
this year: $13.14

two years ago: $248.02 (22 lb, 3 oz)
this year: $262.53 (19 lb, 15.75 oz)

Beyond the usual coins we had eight $1 coins, one fifty cent piece, two screws and six too-gross-to-touch pennies.

So there you go, if you have a huge jar of coins and you’re wondering how much it might be worth you can safely assume around $13 per pound.

* update: I just wanted to add that I do know that Coinstar dispenses gift certificates to various retail outlets without taking a percentage off of your total. And, this is going to sound more snarky than I mean it to, I’d rather have the cash. However, if you are a regular with Amazon or Starbucks, this option would be well worth it.

· comments [36] · 11-15-2010 · categories:misc ·

36 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jan // Nov 15, 2010 at 9:28 am

    We used to save coins all year and during the Thanksgiving holiday my boys would count it and roll it and take it to the bank. They each got half to buy Christmas presents with. It gave them great practice counting money.

  • 2 sharon // Nov 15, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Hey, I’ve found the same thing to be true……weight per pound, that is. I do this every year just before Christmas to buy the candy that will go into the stockings. I usually end up with approx 10lbs of coins. Averages between $110-127 dollars. I roll my own coins, too. Something to do in front of the fire on a cool Nov evening. “)

  • 3 Cujo // Nov 15, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Many Coinstars will dispense gift certificates and not skim their usual fee. I always trade my coins for credit.

  • 4 melissa // Nov 15, 2010 at 9:56 am

    I’m such a dork but I used to LOVE sorting, counting, and rolling my dad’s spare change when I was a kid. I have no idea what this says about my personality, but it wasn’t even the end total (usually about $20) that made me do it – it was for the fun of it!

  • 5 Mamacita // Nov 15, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Coinstar will give you a gift certificate for the full amount of your coins to Amazon, as well as some other retailers. But when you have such an awesome system, I can see why you’d stick with that.

  • 6 megan // Nov 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Mamacita – Thanks for the tip, I do know that Coinstar gift certificates don’t take a percentage from the total. I did take these into consideration however we really don’t spend $200 at either Amazon or Starbucks (or any of the other options) in a year so the certificate wouldn’t be worth it.

  • 7 Nana // Nov 15, 2010 at 10:29 am

    If you take in the coins more often, you can get a more ‘manageable’ gift card…a little extra gift to my DD far away. My CoinStar machine also doesn’t take any percentage out if you donate the total — an easy way to make an extra contribution.

  • 8 megan // Nov 15, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Thanks Nana! I’d still rather have the cash though :)

  • 9 megan // Nov 15, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Thank you Cujo. Simply, we don’t spend enough at either Starbucks or Amazon over the course of a year for that option to be worth it. Also, we are both really horrible about not having a gift card on us when we’d like to use it.

  • 10 Cynthia // Nov 15, 2010 at 10:46 am

    The grid idea is brilliant. I’ve just come through a year of breast cancer treatment and have major chemo brain! And while I love the process of coin rolling (including the beer – brilliant) I don’t trust my counting these days (and the beer won’t help!). I am doing this this week! I might even let the kids help. Thanks, Megan.

  • 11 Alison // Nov 15, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Pennies and nickels cost more to produce than they’re worth! I was confirming this at Wikipedia and somehow ended up reading about the old, pre-decimalisation British system. Very confusing!

  • 12 jen // Nov 15, 2010 at 11:25 am

    I’ve done my share of coin rolling for other people, but I just spend mine as I go on small cash purchases. I tend to use my credit card as much as possible.

    I think the most I’ve rolled in one sitting was over $ 700 between two people.

  • 13 maggie // Nov 15, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Awesome! We’re saving coins in a jar for a nice meal, and it would be so cool to estimate when we’re more or less there with the scale before we start rolling. :) I’d be curious if anyone has figured out the average/lb with quarters removed. We have coin laundry in our building–quarters are precious and kept elsewhere!

  • 14 megan // Nov 15, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Cynthia – That sucks that you’re undergoing treatment for cancer, I’m sending wishes for a speedy and complete recovery. And the grids really did made sorting go faster, I liked not having to count over and over again. Also, working on a surface that allows you to easily slide the coins around so you don’t have to pick them up makes it faster.

    Jen – $700, damn that would be heavy.

    Alison – I knew that about pennies but nickels as well? I also end up reading about things far different from where I started when I read Wikipedia.

  • 15 jen // Nov 15, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    If you’re a member of WSECU, and perhaps by extension the other credit unions in their network, the Eastlake branch has a coin sorting machine that doesn’t charge a fee.

  • 16 Toni // Nov 15, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Our closest Coinstar machine did not offer gift certs (I would have loved one to Amazon, definitely!). Too bad I didn’t find this out until AFTER I had dumped all of my coins into it. Boo hoo! Next closest machine with gift certs? 40 miles. Boohoo x 2.

  • 17 megan // Nov 15, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Jen – Thanks. Last time I checked on Yelp all reports were that those coin machines were taken away. Do you know for sure that it’s there? If so that would be great. Though, I have to admit, I enjoy the process of sorting coins.

    Toni – That is unfortunate!

  • 18 Meg // Nov 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Last year and in other years, Coinstar has offered a “bonus” around Thanksgiving/Christmas time for a few weeks, where if you exchanged your coins (I think it was a minimum of $40) for a gift card, you got an extra $10 gift card. So you not only didn’t have to pay a fee, you got MORE than what your coins were worth. No word on whether they will do that this year, but for someone contemplating taking their coins in, it might be worth waiting a couple weeks to see if they can snag that deal.

  • 19 megan // Nov 15, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Meg – Good to know, thank you!

  • 20 laura lok // Nov 15, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Very interesting

  • 21 simplysara // Nov 15, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Casinos will also exchange them for free. Of course, they hope you will spend it in their machines, but you don’t have too. We have several casinos in our area (on Native American reservations) and if we know we will be near one, we will plan to bring our coins. Also, one of them has excellent restaurants so my boyfriend and I usually combine it with “date night”. We often make a contest out of it. We guess as to the amount the coins are worth. We split the “proceeds” from the exchange, so the person whose guess is furthest away from the actual total has to pay for dinner from their half of the money.

  • 22 Erin // Nov 15, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    As a math teacher, and total math geek, I love that you kept stats! The pretty pictures (graphs) that you could make with said stats. It makes a grown math teacher tear up!

  • 23 Jess // Nov 15, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    How interesting!
    My husband never ever uses his change, so I started scooping it up from all over the house and collecting it. Now that we live in the Euro-zone, I keep the one, two and five cent coins in a jar and toss the rest (ten, twenty, and fifty cent coins) into a small pouch. When the weekend rolls around and we hit up our Farmer’s Market, all we do is take the pouch. It’s amazing how much you can buy with a few coins!

  • 24 chris // Nov 15, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    You might be interested in this ask.metafilter post from a few weeks back about the weight of a coffee can of pennies:

  • 25 megan // Nov 15, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks Chris!

    Jess – Great idea. I agree, I tend to go to the Farmers market with bills and come home with lots of change, might as well start with the change.

    Erin – Awesome. I intend to keep it up. Check out that link to Ask Metafilter that Chris gave, there is some serious math going on in that thread.

    SimplySara – That is a great tip, thank you! We have some casinos nearby, I don’t gamble so this might be a good excuse to get to see what they look like inside.

  • 26 tina // Nov 15, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    thanks retreoactively for your ‘study’ two years ago. i was just moving from my manhattan apartment and had so many coins, i couldn’t carry them out in one trip….it seemed silly to move with them. they added up to >$400. anyway, the reason for thanks is that on the east coast we have the wonderfulness of td bank, which not only open on sundays and till 8 pm on fridays, but free coin-counting machines that give you a little prize if you guess your amount within a certain range. my nyc change had a huge percentage of foreign coins for some reason, so the weighing did not really work out. but i have kept on with the weighing before banking and won the prize at td bank a few times :)

  • 27 Sue // Nov 15, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    I read your addendum but wasn’t sure whether you knew about the itunes voucher possibility of some Coinstar machines….mmmm itunes credit…..

  • 28 maxine // Nov 16, 2010 at 12:15 am

    I used to be a bank teller, and at our bank, if a child/minor had an account, we waived the fee. (So, it might work, if you know someone with a child, perhaps?)

  • 29 Gretchen // Nov 16, 2010 at 9:59 am

    My friend works at a bank and they will use the coin machine there to count your money FOR FREE and they HATE IT when you come in with rolled coins because they are not allowed to take your word for it and they have to unroll every one of them to put them in the machine. She says – please, please, please just show up with the coffee can!

  • 30 megan // Nov 16, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Tina – That’s awesome.

    Sue – Yup. Still want the cash :)

    Maxine – That is adorable, but we don’t know any children with bank accounts that would be willing to launder our coins.

    Gretchen – We did our research and there aren’t any free counting machines that we could find anywhere nearby. And our bank specifically requested we sort our own and warned us against showing up with a jar of loose coins. So, call first?

  • 31 amy // Nov 16, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Wow…this sounds like something my husband would be so into doing. Me, not so much.

  • 32 Lauren // Nov 16, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    We went to a Coinstar machine that advertised that it sold gift certificates, but after we dumped our change in – surprise! – it did not.

    The store manager said, “Yeah, it just gives back change.” Many terse words were exchanged, then Coinstar headquarters helped out via phone.


  • 33 Seanna Lea // Nov 17, 2010 at 9:41 am

    My hubby and I do this once or twice a year, but we are lazy and just use the Coinstar machine. The money goes straight to groceries almost every time. Though one I saw a guy with at least one hurricane lantern-style container and one paint or pickle bucket (large, large bucket) putting in his coins before a trip to Disney.

  • 34 Carmit // Nov 23, 2010 at 11:10 am

    The grid is a good idea, but I’d use a kitchen scale to figure out the weight of each roll (depending on face value, without paper) and then just toss the coins in until I’ve reached the right weight.

    When I worked at a bank we had a client that would come in to buy rolls of coin and he often brought them back claiming they were short a coin according to the scale in his store. Not surprisingly, he never came in to return the extra coins that I’m *SURE* snuck in to some of the rolls.

  • 35 megan // Nov 23, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Carmit – We tried that but our kitchen scale wasn’t sensitive enough to determine between this many and that many dimes. Also, honestly, it was faster to push the coins onto the grids as there were two of us doing that, when we could only use the scale one at a time.The part that takes time was sorting the coins, parceling them out for rolling was really very quick and in our case using the scale didn’t speed it up.

  • 36 Tom // Feb 2, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Dropping off 150 Lbs of loose coins tomorrow at Bank of America. They charge $7.00 per bag.
    This should a good average as is un-pilfered, collected over a long period of time with a decent weight.
    I’ll let you know….

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