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Twenty Five Dollars an Hour to What?!: Hourly Rate Saved by not Using Fee-Based Coin Counting Machines [ver 0.92]

There are a number of alternatives for exchanging your change: fee-based coin counting machines or bank and credit union coin counting machines or teller services; spending it in stores or vending machines; throwing it away; or rolling the coins. Although TheUnderstory.com site is primarily dedicated to connecting you with cheap and free coin counting machines, we understand that it is not always possible to find a service which suits your needs. Therefore, we are offering advice on minimizing the costs of counting your coins at for-pay coin counting services and some ideas for rolling your coins.

Fee-based coin counting machines are showing up in supermarkets and elsewhere around the world based on a simple idea. Dump your coins into the machine and you receive a voucher, good for cash or purchases, for the amount you poured into the machine minus a transaction fee, which for the most common machines is 8.9%. If you can't find a bank or credit union to count your coins free, is it worth using pay coin counting services or should you wrap your own coins? Advocates for fee-based coin counting systems often drone on about how long it takes to roll coins; obviously the potential for bias exists in the matter.

Based on data collected from five participants (and counting) and multiple anecdotes, rolling coins should not take more than two (2) minutes a roll for most people, although some individuals may take longer. At two minutes a roll, you would save only $1.34 an hour for rolling your own pennies (60 minutes / 2 minutes roll = 30 rolls * 50 coins a roll * 8.9% or 4.45 cents fee each roll = $1.34 .) However, for each higher denomination, the amount saved rises as shown in the table Hourly Rate Saved by not Using Fee-Based Coin Counting Machines.

Hourly Rate Saved by not Using Fee-Based Coin Counting Machines

  Coinstar cost for one roll (coins per roll) Hourly Rate
(2 minutes/roll)
Piles of ten coins per roll
New Dollar
(Sacagawea Golden or Susan B. Anthony)
222.5 cents (25 coins) $66.75
2.5
Dollar (Eisenhower) 178 cents (20 coins) $53.40
2
Half Dollar 89 cents (20 coins) $25.70
2
Quarter 89 cents (40 coins) $25.70
4
Dime 44.5 cents (50 coins) $13.35
5
Nickel 17.8 cents (40 coins) $5.34
4
Penny (Cent) 4.45 cents (50 coins) $1.36
5

As astonishing as the above table is, there may be even more money at stake than the table conveys. First, the speed at which you can roll fewer large coins is significantly better than for rolling more smaller coins. Thus, the hourly rate for at least half dollar and dollar coins is potentially understated and you would save even more rolling or spending those coins as opposed to paying to have them counted. Furthermore, the policy of Coinstar [and maybe other coin counter owners/hosts] is to allow the machines to take certain damaged coins, foreign coins, Eisenhower silver dollars, 1943 steel pennies and possibly other obsolete U.S. coinage (anecdotal evidene only on the last one) without giving credit for them. They state this right on their web site at : http://www.coinstar.com/coinstar2/cswebframe.nsf/HTML/FAQ . This may or may not be a fair policy and they are to be commended for being honest about it in an up front manner, but it is something you should keep in mind. Consider adding a step at the beginning of your counting, no matter whose machines you use, in which you sort through your coins for the list of Coinstar exceptions above. Spend the damaged coinage, sell or give your obsolete and foreign coins to a coin collector, and give the Eisenhowers to your kids, neices and nephews or young acquaintances.

Most of us in the industrialized world probably value our time at much more than $1.36 an hour. However, many of us do not even get paid as much as the hourly rate that Coinstar charges to count quarters, let alone dollar coins. We would gladly "earn" a few extra dollars by rolling our own or spending high denomination coins instead of paying to have them counted.

Counting - Rolling - Wrapping your Coins

With careful attention, you can cut the amount of time it takes you to count your coins!

Start by sitting on or near a soft surface with enough give to be somewhat moldable such as our favorite, a typical bed with the comforter and sheet pulled up creating a clean, flat surface (we hear this is called a "made bed"). Dump your coins out onto the surface and spread them out on one third of the bed surface near one end until the coins are mostly in one layer, especially at the edges of the pile. Then, with both hands, begin to gather and count out two handfuls of ten coins of the largest denomination coins out of which you believe you have enough coins to make a roll. When you have completed two handfuls of ten, place the piles down on the empty area of the bed about a fist apart. In no time, you will have ten-coin piles covering up to two thirds of the bed with ten coin piles. Do not stack coins, as much you may want to; as counterintuitive as it is, stacking wastes time, as we'll explain below.

Just as in the machine world, humans also do one task more quickly and efficiently if they are allowed to do the same task uninterrupted for a period of time. So you should count ten-coin piles out until you are finished with your unsorted pile or run out of room for well-spaced piles. Furthermore, by sorting out the largest denomination coins first, you uncover bed/surface area making it easier to attack the smaller denomination coins later (or leave them for the fee-based coin counting machines/services.)

Select a wrapper from your assortment (which can be obtained free at most reputable banks) for the denomination you will be wrapping first, open it by pressing down on the creases and fold flat so you have four evenly spaced creases. Open it back up and quickly work one opening into a rough circle. Lay it down nearby.

Next, grab up the correct number of piles of ten for the denomination you are rolling, shown in the table Hourly Rate Saved by not Using Fee-Based Coin Counting Machines into one hand. Young children and people with small hands may need to handle half a pile at a time. If you need to, make sure you set the other half down away from the other coins.

Next, you want to lightly toss and work the coins in your hand while using the other hand to form what is essentially a roll of coins in your hand without a wrapper. Once you get good at it, you won't need to be so strict about how well formed your pile is, but in the beginning, it helps if you line all of the coins up precisely.

As to why we don't stack, we have found that making stacks, maintining those stacks on any surface, and then placing perfect stacks into wrappers is utterly inefficient and time consuming and almost impossible. Just insure you have the correct number of coins in a pile and practice the toss procedure.

Once you have the coins in a clean line in your hand, pick up your wrapper with your other hand and put your middle finger into the wrapper in the more square, unworked opening, to the first finger joint. The idea at this point is to pour your well formed line of coins into the wrapper. Problems will occasionally occur, especially for novices, such as coins falling into the roll on edge, jamming the wrapper. Since each situation and person will suggest different responses, our general advice is to try to pour the coins back out part of the way, then tilt them back in after the coins are adjusted properly. Again, practice will make you a pro in no time.

This technique allows you to listen to the radio, talk to someone on a headset microphone phone, or watch television. You can even use this technique in your living room by draping a comforter over your coffee table.

There are personal machines and devices sold which hold the promise of counting coins faster than by hand alone. For a while we thought we could get rich as a web affiliate getting three (3) percent of every coin tube and counting machine sold. Although we cannot testify for certain as to the effectiveness of all these devices, we have become lukewarm to promise of these devices because we can't make the math of time and money work out in the user's favor under almost any scenario or device price point. This entire site is dedicated to accessing the money trapped in change with minimal effort, cost and time. Adding devices to the mix seems to be an incremental measure at best. Even wrapping coins should be seen as a temporary measure until one locates an affordable coin counting service.

And next time you are contemplating dumping your change jar into the supermarket coin counting machine or counting/rolling your own coins, think about your hourly rate.

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