Late last Wednesday night, a tractor trailer driver pulled into a parking lot at a mall in Northeast Philadelphia. Hoping to take a snooze, he left his cargo of 7.5 million dimes behind a truck door with a flimsy lock. The dimes were traveling from the mint in Philadelphia to a Federal Reserve Bank in Miami, Florida.
When the driver returned, thieves had grabbed loot worth approximately $200,000. The police are not sure if six (or so) men in black clothing and gray hoodies knew about the dimes when they broke into the truck. Because they took some nearby recycling bins, they appear not to have had the containers they needed for their (10,000 pound) getaway.
Reading about the heist, I wondered what you do with 2 million dimes.
Like the dimes in the heist, coins typically move from the mint to a Federal Reserve Bank. From there, many go to commercial banks and then businesses.
Below, the Federal Reserve graphic shows armored trucks transporting the coins from Federal Reserve Banks to commercial banks. (I guess they are not armored when they leave the mint.):
By coins, the graphic means pennies, nickles, dimes, quarters, 50 cent pieces and dollar coins.
The mint had these images:
You can see that more pennies are minted than any other denomination:
It is important that the face value of a coin is more than the metal from which it is made. Otherwise people wuld melt them down. As for the purloined dimes, they are mostly copper (91.67 percent) and some nickel (8.33 percent).
So, the thieves would not want to melt their stash.
Our Bottom Line: Denomination Effect
Then, I checked how we spend our dimes. Finding little, I only discovered that most vending machines take dimes.
However, behavioral economics could have some answers. In a 2009 study, two economists observed that we tend to spend more when we have smaller denominations. Called the Denomination Effect, we might keep our $20 bill but spend $20 if instead our wallet contained coins and smaller bills.
I know the Denomination Effect does not really answer our question.
But, what can the thieves do with their dimes? One police officer offered some advice. “If for some reason you have a lot of dimes at home, this is probably not the time to cash them in.”
My sources and more: Of course I could not resist articles on the dime heist that were here and here. Next, to find out more about dimes, I discovered that sdbullion had some facts. And the St. Louis Fed had the graphics. The only research I found was NPR’s description of the Denomination Effect and this paper.
why didn’t the thieves take all of the dimes valued at $750,000?
the Inqiurer and NYT articles did not allow access even though I subscribe to both.
I suspect they were too heavy!