A shotgun roll is a roll of regularly circulating U.S. coins which have been tightly wrapped with tamper-evident ends by a bank or minting authority. Although the term "shotgun roll" used to refer to a roll of double length and value, nowadays the double rolls are called "double shotgun rolls" and single, standard rolls are simply "shotgun rolls." Find out how many coins are in each type of roll of U.S. coins.
Are Shotgun Rolls Really Unsearched?
Many coin collectors believe that shotgun rolls of coins are unsearched since the ends of the rolls are very tightly wrapped. These tightly wrapped rolls of coins require the use of a special coin rolling machine that is most commonly found at banks and minting institutions.
Unfortunately, a coin rolling machine that produces these tightly wrapped coin roll ends can be purchased for under $400. It doesn't take any specialized mechanical knowledge or materials to run the machine. Therefore, anybody with the money to buy one can make their own shotgun rolls of coins.
Some unscrupulous coin dealers will buy their own shotgun coin rolling machine to repackage coins that they've already searched through and removed the key date coins. To help sell these rolls of supposedly "unsearched" coins, they will put a bait coin at the end of the roll.
A bait coin is a common coin that is individually placed at the end of the roll facing out so the buyer can see it. For example, an average circulated 1909 VDB Lincoln wheat cent has a value of less than ten dollars. An average circulated 1909-S VDB Lincoln wheat cent has a value of almost $700. The only way to tell the difference between the two is to inspect both the obverse and the reverse of the coin.
Since the dealer puts the reverse on the end of the roll, only the "VDB" is showing. To find out if it is the rare 1909-S coin you would have to buy the roll of coins and break it open to see the obverse of the coin. Once you open the role of coins, it cannot be returned. The same trick can be accomplished with the 1916-D Mercury Dime.
Other tricks that unscrupulous dealers will do to sell their rolls of supposedly "unsearched" coin rolls include taking brown paper (similar to paper grocery bags) and purchasing a rubber stamp with an old bank name on it. They will then stamp the paper to make their own vintage coin rolls. Unsuspecting people will look at these "old looking" rolls of coins and think there may be treasures inside. They may even take a wire brush and rough up the paper to make it look like the roll of coins has been around for a while.
The Bottom Line on Shotgun Coin Rolls
There is no definitive way to determine if a shotgun roll of coins is authentically unsearched. From my conversations with a variety of coin dealers, there is no such thing as an unsearched roll of coins.
Modern Coin Roll Hunting
Can valuable coins be found in rolls of coins? The quick answer is "yes." However, it will take time and knowledge to find a valuable coin. The first thing you must accomplish is acquiring large quantities of rolled coins from your local bank. This isn't as easy as you may think.
Remember, banks are in business to make money for their shareholders. A majority of the cost of operating a local bank branch is tied up in personnel costs. A bank branch is staffed by many different people. Additionally, there are many people behind-the-scenes handling transactions and preparing coins and paper currency for distribution. Therefore, unless you are a customer, you may be charged a fee for acquiring rolled coins.
When a bank needs more coins, they order them directly from the Federal Reserve Bank. The Fed ships rolled coins in boxes. For example, a box of pennies contains fifty rolls for a total face value of twenty-five dollars. Coins obtained directly from the Federal Reserve Bank are brand-new and have been shipped there directly from the United States Mint.
When a bank takes in coins from a commercial customer, such as a department store, the coins are sent in bulk to an off-site facility that counts and sorts them. Once the coins have been counted and sorted, they are automatically rolled into a standard roll of coins.
Therefore, it is better for you to obtain rolls of circulated coins in the hope of finding a valuable coin. Think about it, somebody may have had a large jar of coins on their dresser that they were putting their pocket change in since the 1960s. United States coins minted on or before 1964 are made of 90% silver and are worth more than their face value. Maybe a roll of coins that you acquire may have some valuable silver coins in them.
Edited by: James Bucki