In Depth Study:

BU Roll Buyer's Guide

Part 2: Where Rolls Come From 

We frequently get requests for "Mint rolls" or "Fed rolls"  Actually, neither of these entities wrap coins today and one never has.  "Bank wrapped" rolls are also commonly requested as well as bought and sold in today's roll market.  However, few banks actually wrap coins these days and that has been the situation for decades.   Part 2 seeks to explain away these common misconceptions and help the reader better understand the processes surrounding wrapping of current coinage.

Of course, the process all starts at the US Mint where coins are manufactured.  Generally, speaking most of the nation's coinage is produced by the main US Mint facility in Philadelphia or the branch facility in Denver.  The Mint also has facilities in San Francisco and West Point but most of the circulation coinage is produced at either the Philadelphia or Denver facilities.

Again, generally speaking coinage needs east of the Mississippi River are met through the Philadelphia facility with the Denver facility filling orders west of the Mississippi River.  Thus, depending on where one lives, typically only P-mint or D-mint coinage can be obtained locally.  There have been notable exceptions with new issues, shortages, surpluses and other anomalies but for the most part this rule has held true.

Image 1: Mint-sewn bags of quarters, dollars and cents.

The Mint ships coin to regional Federal Reserve banks.  The coins leaves the Mint and arrives at the Federal Reserve branch bank in bulk lots.  Historically, coins were delivered in "mint-sewn bags" (see Image 1).  Thes number of coins in these bags varied by denomination containing 5000 cents, 4000 nickels, 5000 dimes, 4000 quarters, 2000 half dollars or 2000 dollars.   Roll collectors note that the coins left the Mint loose in bags, not rolled.

In late 2000 and early 2001, in a cost cutting move, the Mint discontinued use of the traditional sized bag and opted instead for a larger bulk, or "jumbo" bag, containing from 50 to 100 times the number of coins that were previously placed in the smaller bags.  Specifically, these larger bags contained 400,000 cents, 240,000 nickels, 500,000 dimes, 200,000 quarters, 100,000 half dollars or 140,000 dollars (source Coin World).  Note that even after the process change, coins still left the Mint facility in unrolled form.

The Federal Reserve Bank branches store coins in the bulk bags as received from the Mint until receiving an order from one of their customers, typically a commercial bank or other depository institution.  Typically, the local banks contract with an armored car company (e.g., Brinks, Loomis, Wells Fargo, Dunbar, etc.) to pick up the coins from the Federal Reserve bank and deliver them to the local bank.  However, the local banks desire the coin in rolled form for easy dispensation to their customers.   As a result, the armored car companies have central processing facilities where they take the bagged coinage for wrapping into rolls and boxing prior to delivery to the requesting bank.  Yes, it is the armored car companies that wrap the vast majority of coins into rolls in today's economy and has been for the last few decades.

Image 2: Rolls from the 1950s and 1960s with bank names.

Back in the days when there was one or two main banks in town, long before banks tried to have a branch in every neighborhood, larger banks often had their own wrapping machines.  Their larger volume at a single location warranted the initial expense of a wrapping machine (which can cost as much as a small automobile) and the required regular maintenance program.   Particularly large banks often ordered wrapping paper pre-printed with their bank name.  These rolls, true "bank wrapped" rolls (see Image 2) are often seen on rolls from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s but seem to have largely disappeared by the 1970s.  During this same era, and particularly the 1950s, the Federal Reserve Banks also had wrapping machines and did wrap some of the coins, especially for smaller banks without wrapping equipment. Consequently, one can sometimes find rolls from this era stamped with the name of a Federal Reserve Bank.

However, as banking spread all over town, the economies of scale were lost and it became even more important to have a reliable vendor provide transportation of coin and currency between the Federal Reserve Bank and the many local bank branches.   Since the Federal Reserve Bank did not wrap the coins and the individual local banks did not have wrapping equipment, the job of wrapping coins was left to the armored car companies.  Did you ever wonder why banks required you to wrap coins before they will accept them for deposit?  It is because they do not have a wrapping machine on premises and the do not have the staff to hand wrap large volumes of coins.

In summary, the vast majority (probably well above 99%) of the rolls today are wrapped by the armored car companies and the names "Mint wrapped", "Fed wrapped" and even "bank wrapped" are all misnomers as applied to modern coin rolls.

Continue to Part 3A.
Return to Introduction.

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