What to do with all that loose change

Christopher Hall, 33, has been saving small change all his life. When he was 13, his mother gave him a coin-counting machine. Ever since then, whenever there was something big he couldn’t quite afford, he’d cash in jars full of coins.

Years ago, the hairstylist used accumulated change to buy a car. He later cashed in $2,500 in coins to make a down payment on his house. Recently, he reached into his jars to help pay for a remodel of his Costa Mesa hair salon, Split Ends.

Hall gets more coins than the average guy because of his business. He’s also reluctant to spend them because he uses coins like some people use tax refunds.

Even though he realizes it’s not necessarily brilliant to leave thousands of dollars lying around without earning interest, he considers collecting coins a painless way to save.

He’s not the only one throwing money into a jar. Millions of Americans empty their pockets each night into bowls, jars or sock drawers, said Alex Camara, senior vice president of Coinstar, which operates change machines in 12,000 supermarkets nationwide.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based company, which took in about $2.1 billion in coins last year, estimated that Americans have $10 billion in coins accumulating in ashtrays and jars. The average household has $99 of change lying around, Camara added.

Hall can tell you that the only downside to saving coins is spending them. Waiters are not amused when you pay a check with a pile of dimes. And he figures that the car dealer who wouldn’t extend him credit regretted it mightily later, when he had to spend the night counting the backpack full of $11,000 in small bills and change that Hall used to buy his Toyota.

But if you want to convert those accumulated coins into something easier to spend, it can cost you either time or money, he said.

Over the years, his banks have either charged him ``drive-off” fees or required that he write his name, address and account number on every roll of coins he deposited. Given that he typically waits until he has more than $1,000 before he converts his coins, the writing assignment could take hours, he said.

Once, he turned over his quarters to a laundromat, which didn’t charge a fee, but it still required hours of counting.

He has friends who take their coins to Las Vegas, where the casinos have trouble distinguishing change collectors from the average slot-machine gambler, and thus are willing to exchange coins without charging a fee.

Hall figures he would lose more to the lure of the slots than he would pay to a bank, so on his last change exchange, he dumped his coins into a Coinstar machine and accepted the company’s 8.9 percent fee.

My total yesterday was $2,153,'' he said.It would take me three days to roll that. I guess I could have my friends over for a pizza party to roll change, but that would cost me more, too.”

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Category - Informative
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