Counting coins
March 17, 2005 10:14 AM   Subscribe

A friend needs to deposit sums of money in US quarters, and the bank wants him to count it himself and tell them how much exactly is there, or they'll charge him a fee for the wrong amount. It is usually about 50 pounds (about $1,000). He will not use the stupid "Star" machines and pay 6 or 10% "counting" fees. Any ideas of how to quickly count sacks of money? (he does not have kids)
posted by growabrain to Work & Money (34 answers total)
Two simple options, by weight or by height. Either work out what a given amount of coins weighs or work out how high a given amount of coins stacks up.

For weight, use some fairly accurate scales. For height, get a length of tube slightly larger than the coin, fill it up to a given mark and count how much is there. Then empty and repeat until you've counted most of it. Do the final few by hand.

Or, pile up $5 in quarters, measure the height then make lots of little stacks of the same height. Muliply num of stacks x $5 to find total. You can use a ruler, a small piece of wood or a pencil to measure the height.

Further to previous comments, do not underestimate what can be achieved with a little perseverance in a short space of time. I suggest the third method will be the quickest.
posted by gaby at 10:20 AM on March 17, 2005

Commerce Bank has machines that count for free in each branch...they spit out a receipt and you bring that to a fees or percentage taken out as far as i know.
posted by amberglow at 10:23 AM on March 17, 2005

My bank has a publically acessible coin counter. You run your own coins through and give the teller a receipt - there isn't a service charge.
posted by nathan_teske at 10:23 AM on March 17, 2005

It bugs me when a bank doesn't offer this as a service. There's no reason for them to expect you to count the money, when they HAVE A COIN COUNTING MACHINE.

Anyway. If it's not a repeated event, I'd normally recommend sucking it up and using the coinstar machine, but since the store that hosts the machine has to pay out the cash, a thousand dollars is a lot to expect.

I'd froogle for coin counting machine (I upped the minimum price to eliminate cheap ones that will break and most of the associated supplies).
posted by o2b at 10:24 AM on March 17, 2005

Yup, the Commerce machines are completely free, even if you don't have an account with Commerce.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:24 AM on March 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

Jinx amberglow, jinx
posted by nathan_teske at 10:24 AM on March 17, 2005

I ran into the same problem, but with mixed change (5 gallon bucket, half full ~$700). Turned out that not all banks charge for change counting. A buddy of mine had an account at one, so I just got him to do it. I'd try calling around, people with a few soda machines must do something that doesn't cost 10% off the top.
posted by 445supermag at 10:27 AM on March 17, 2005

If stacking - then taking a handful of quarters between your two cupped hands and vigorously shaking them will quickly and easily align them into "stacks" . This might work in a bag or something as well, and speed up the process a lot.

In England they have (or had) electronic scales on the counters and the teller puts the change there to count it via weight
posted by Rumple at 10:30 AM on March 17, 2005

If he chooses to weigh the coins, make sure he sorts them first for stuff that doesn't count as a quarter -- canadian coins, pocket detritus, Chuck E. Cheese tokens, et cetera.
posted by Hildago at 10:30 AM on March 17, 2005

yup--Commerce, if there's a branch near you (are they only in the NorthEast?)--a bank that truly doesn't suck.
posted by amberglow at 10:36 AM on March 17, 2005

If he can sort by denomination -- and it sounds like he only has quarters -- and he truly has a lot of them, weighing could be more accurate if he has access to a great scale. Weigh two or three sets of, say, 20 to make sure that the scale gives you the same result each time and then pile on. I've counted huge boxes of plastic parts that weight much less than quarters this way, but you have to have a good scale.
posted by blueshammer at 10:47 AM on March 17, 2005

As others have said, the best thing to do is find a more helpful bank.
posted by grouse at 10:54 AM on March 17, 2005

looks like commerce is only on the east coast. too bad, because I'd consider switching.

you know, it's odd, but when I first read about the problem, i didn't immediately think, "well, that's a bullshit policy". I'VE BEEN BRAINWASHED BY B OF A.
posted by fishfucker at 11:00 AM on March 17, 2005

In fairness to the banks, the reason for not effectively handing out carte blanche access to the counting machines is that they do not suffer foreign objects well. Even the ones designed to deal with it - those ones you see at the grocery which take a percentage - have high failure rates even with their aggressive fault avoidance. If you have used one you have seen the high number of coins they reject into the bin in an effort to avoid passing garbage into the actual counting machinery.

You don't mention how assured your friend is that his masses of quarters are free of detritus so I'll assume they're not necessarily. If s/he has any slight amount of mechanical skill, I'd suggest a making something akin to what you see in movies as a gold sifter by stretching some metal or plastic mesh with holes smaller than quarters across a frame. S/he can push the quarters across to filter the crap out of the quarters.

Once that's done I'd personally use something akin to a piece of 3/4 by 3/4 wooden molding to put the coins on edge in a format convenient to shove into a paper roll. Think of a visual like how poker chips are racked.

S/he can mark the edge once to demark the quantities by size so that once they're all upright they can be quickly pushed into coin rolls. Alternately some pvc pipe could be cut in half to serve the same purpose, though that requires better skills/tools - HomeDepot or Lowes will cut molding to the length you like but probably won't eviscerate pipe for you that way.

Most banks will take rolled coins as a deposit with your account number written on them which they'll feed into their counters to verify. If they won't do this with no fee (though I think some fee for mislabeled amounts is fair) I think your friend needs to switch banks. Different ones offer different services and cater to different needs. Employ the free market!
posted by phearlez at 11:02 AM on March 17, 2005

I have a local credit union with a coin sorting machine, for what it's worth. Our options are to roll the coins [not bad for small amounts] or take them in to the one branch that has a coin sorter.
posted by jessamyn at 11:04 AM on March 17, 2005

in the old days, pharmacists used to count (round) pills by putting them in a tray with right-angled corner edges. your first row has one pill, the second row ...
just an observation about counting -- weighing is probably going to be easier for coins
posted by anadem at 11:04 AM on March 17, 2005

A TCF bank I used a few years ago had a coin-counting machine that was free for people who had accounts there. I haven't been to that bank in a few years though, so I can't promise that they still offer it (or even that all branches offered it at all).
posted by leapingsheep at 11:21 AM on March 17, 2005

My dad used to have some arcade games and pool tables when I was a kid. Once I got rolling, I could easily roll $1,000 worth of quarters in a few hours using this. It's a handheld counter, in which you scoop quarters into. They stack in the bottom and you empty the excess with a slot that is measured for a $10 roll. Then slide the wrapper in and you have $10 rolled.

Regardless, I still think finding a bank that will accept the uncounted quarters is the best option.
posted by ajr at 11:28 AM on March 17, 2005

I agree with the suggestions for finding a better bank. I think a medium-size local or regional bank is the best bet. I used to give the teller at my local bank a big cup of coins periodically (like ten pounds) and she'd bring back the rejects (the stray foreign coins, etc) with a smile and deposit the balance into my account. Good banks do this stuff.
posted by rolypolyman at 11:33 AM on March 17, 2005

My credit union (First Tech in Seattle area) has free coin-counting machines, too. They might be only for account-holders.
posted by GaelFC at 11:38 AM on March 17, 2005

If there's a casino nearby, just bring the quarters to a teller to "cash out."
posted by xo at 11:57 AM on March 17, 2005

Is there a casino anywhere near you? They won't do much for other denominations, but most of 'em will cash out quarters because that's what the slots take.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:03 PM on March 17, 2005

If you go the casino route, make sure that casino still handles quarters. A lot of them have switched to paper tickets on the slots, and won't have facilities for accepting lots of change.
posted by mosch at 12:48 PM on March 17, 2005

More evidence that there truly is a website for just about everything:

Free and Cheap Coincounting locations in the US

The organization of the page for California won't win any awards, but it points to a host of possibilities.

Or this (growabrain is in Riverside, judging by the zipcode in the profile: Pacific Trust Bank , 5030 Arlington Avenue, Riverside, CA, with free coin counting.

Note to self: never, never again pay 8% for Coinstar.
posted by WestCoaster at 12:59 PM on March 17, 2005

Note that the Commerce Bank in Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri is different from the one in the Commerce in the Northeast.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:04 PM on March 17, 2005

I once had nothing but quarters with which to pay my rent. I counted them out into equal piles (I think it's $10.00 in a roll of quarters, so that's 40 quarters) and then rolled them. It didn't take too long, particularly when I did groups of ten at a time. My bank wouldn't take them unrolled. ::shrug:: I think I did about $500.00 this way. If you have a roommate or friend who will help, it will go even faster.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:25 PM on March 17, 2005

Money is filthy, if your going to hand roll them wash them first. Half fill an appropriate container (I used to use an ice cream bucket) in the sink with coins. Add a bit of laundry soap and cover the coins with dish washing temperature water. Swoosh the coins around a bit, allow to sit for a minute or two and then drain the soapy water. Rinsh until the water runs clear.
posted by Mitheral at 1:44 PM on March 17, 2005

I'd suggest changing banks! That's crap that they want to charge you. My local Bank of America branch does it for not cost.
posted by nitsuj at 2:04 PM on March 17, 2005

TCF (are we talking Twin City Federal here?) has developed a bad habit of pointing people towards a Coinstar-type machine in their lobbies that, like Coinstar, charges a percent.

Wells Fargo in the downtown Minneapolis Wells Fargo Tower counts loose coin for free, at least for customers. It may help to go to the "big, main" office rather than a small branch.

It's in the bank's interest to count coins for accuracy. Dealing with customer-rolled coins sucks mightily. Lots of those amateur rolls will be short, due to sloppiness or snide cheapness ("I ripped off the bank for 25 cents!!") or both. Charging for the service just put an obstacle in the way of something that works in the bank's favor.
posted by gimonca at 3:15 PM on March 17, 2005

I had my own adventures doing something similar. We ended up just counting them by hand, the bigger problem was sorting all the other change out for the quarters. This is from a half filled sparklets water bottle of loose change. If it's pre-sorted you're pretty much good to go with any of the methods above, but I found my stacked coins to be unusually variable in height due to either grime or misshapen quarters.
posted by iamabot at 4:06 PM on March 17, 2005

If this is something your friend is going to be doing a lot, he should get a coin counting machine. A search on Ebay for "coin count*" turns up a few professional machines for under $200.
posted by Marky at 4:22 PM on March 17, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you all. (Westcoaster, your suggestion is 3 blocks away from the subject property!)
The teller at the bank said that they haven't had counting machines for nearly a decade, and there's no Commerce Bank around here.
But in the end the solution was very simple:
The weight of the sack was 50 pound. Quarters weight: 5.67 grams
1 pound = 453.59237 grams
453.59237 / 5.67 = 79.9986543
79.9986543 * 50 pound= 3 999.93271 / 4= exactly $1000.
The teller said that they'll charge $5 if the amount was wrong, and 5 bucks was the cheapest & fastest way to get it down.
posted by growabrain at 8:09 PM on March 17, 2005

Go to a casino and have them run it through their counting machines and give you cash.
posted by eas98 at 7:34 AM on March 18, 2005

Eas98 beat me to it. They'll even count the dimes, though no slot machine takes dimes. Except there are a few in Reno. That take dimes. The dime-takers. I've pushed over $300 through various casinos in large chunks. Set some kind of timed explosive in your car so you're not tempted to dawdle at the $3 blackjack table.
posted by user92371 at 11:47 AM on March 18, 2005

« Older New York City - Recommended Hotels or Hostels   |   Build a little birdhouse. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.