Q&A: Saving loose change

Dear Liz: My husband recently told me that he has saved many coffee cans full of loose change over the years. When I suggested we might at least roll the change to make it easier to count should we ever need it, he was not interested! I understand he just wants it available in an emergency, but just the transportation of these things to a coin counter (that may or may not be available) makes me want to find a better way to honor his idea of saving change in a more realistic way. Perhaps roll while watching TV, then ask a bank to convert to dollar coins as a way to reduce the bulk?

Answer: It’s hard to imagine how your husband expects to deploy those coins in an emergency. Does he envision lugging them to the grocery store or gas station? Does he imagine any retailer would accept a coffee can of change as payment? Many retailers won’t even accept rolled coins, since they don’t know what’s inside those wrappers.

Converting the coins into bills, or better yet to savings in a bank, is a far more practical option. You can use commercial coin sorters, but they typically take a hefty cut. Coinstar, for example, charges a 10.9% service fee, although that is waived if you choose to be paid with a retailer’s gift card or voucher.

Another place to check is your bank. Some have coin sorters available to customers, although you may have to deposit the result rather than take it immediately in cash.

Alternatively, your bank may supply you with wrappers — or it may not accept change at all. The only way to know is to call and ask.

If you do decide to roll the change, consider making a small investment in a coin sorter. You can spend $200 or more on a commercial version, but there are well-reviewed versions on Amazon that cost around $25.

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  1. Your response might have left out a more lucrative angle on Mr. Cans-o-coins. Depending on how long he has been collecting them, they might contain 1964 and earlier dimes and quarters which are largely silver or solid copper pennies. The latter are worth 2 or 3 cents apiece and silver quarters, for example are $3.16 (http://www.coinflation.com/coins/1932-1964-Silver-Washington-Quarter-Value.html)for their “melt value” at a metals dealer.I believe the silver coins for a few years after ’64 also have greater than face value metal content. This would be apart from any collectible value some coins might have. Likely, most would be worth more as metal. It might be worth segregating them according to value. I’m pretty sure Coinstar, after taking their 10% would be happy to separate and sell the good ones.