A North Carolina aquarium closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic is collecting coins that have piled up in a wishing well for many years, while the U.S. continues to experience a shortage in coins prompted by the pandemic.
The Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium shut down their 30-foot waterfall fountain for the first time in years while being forced to remain closed under public health orders. Staff then collected about 100 gallons of coins after draining the fountain, which was not originally intended to be a wishing well.
“The public decided it should be a wishing well,” Cindy Meyers, the aquarium’s visitor and member services coordinator, told WCTI. “We decided since we were going to be closed to the public for an extended period that we would shut the waterfall off to save electricity. Since we did that, we could see all the coins in there, and it was really piling up. We decided to drain the waterfall and get it in.”
Meyers told the outlet that aquarium staff had been depositing the coins in a local bank in batches and had hauled in about $2,100 as of Wednesday. The aquarium asked the public to guess the total amount of coins collected on social media, promising to reveal the final tally after the time-consuming process is completed next week.
“It’s taking longer than anticipated to sort, clean and count coins,” the aquarium posted to Facebook on Wednesday. “Staff is still sifting through the almost 14 years worth of coins from the waterfall. We’ve sent a portion of them to the automated coin counter at a local bank. It took about four hours to get through nine crates of coins! So stay tuned! We’ll post the total amount next week.”
After all the money is counted and deposited in the bank, it will be used to help fund the facility and take care of the animals that live there.
Newsweek reached out to Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium for comment.
While the aquarium has been dealing with an abundance of coins, coins have been in short supply elsewhere. Fewer coins are circulating in the U.S. because COVID-19 has resulted in many businesses and banks remaining closed, while fewer members of the public are frequenting those that are open.
“Business and bank closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coins,” the Federal Reserve explains. “While there is an adequate overall amount of coins in the economy, the slowed pace of circulation has reduced available inventories in some areas of the country.”
“As the economy recovers and businesses reopen, more coins will flow back into retail and banking channels and eventually into the Federal Reserve, which should allow for the rebuilding of coin inventories,” the Fed adds.
New coins are continuing to be minted during the pandemic, with operations being at full capacity since mid-June. There are expected to be 1.65 billion new coins made every month for the remainder of 2020.
Although they continue to be produced, the coin shortage has led to renewed discussions centered on discontinuing the penny, according to The New York Times. Calls to eliminate the coin have intensified over the years as production costs climbed, with each penny now costing approximately 2 cents to mint, double its face value.
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