The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 19, Number 34, August 21, 2016, Article 19


The Charlotte Observer recently visited the Charlotte Federal Reserve Branch, where robots are handling part of the workload. Check out the video of the robots are work. -Editor

Charlotte Fed counting

While Charlotte’s big-bank skyscrapers serve as towering symbols of the city’s financial sector, a squat building on East Trade Street is where the big bucks are kept.

Making a payment on a phone is becoming more popular, but the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Charlotte branch is proof that there’s still a need for cold hard cash. Inside the branch, which spans an entire city block across from Time Warner Cable Arena, millions of dollars in bills are kept underground in a three-story vault encased in steel. That money is shipped daily by armored vehicles to and from North and South Carolina banks with agreements to store it at the Fed.

In an era exploding with digital-payment technologies – think bitcoin and mobile apps – it might seem the days of physical money are numbered. For now, though, such inventions aren’t slowing the flow of cash and coins in and out of the Fed’s Charlotte branch, according to the central bank.

“We have not seen a marked decline, and in fact this year we’re seeing a little bit of a slight volume uptick,” said Kelly Stewart, head of cash operations at the Charlotte branch, during a behind-the-scenes tour of the vault provided to the Observer.

“Cash really does still have a significant role as a payment method,” she said. “There’s still plenty of people that have cash in their wallet that want to use it.”

Charlotte’s branch is part of the Fed’s Fifth District, which has its head office in Richmond, Va., and serves the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina and most of West Virginia.

Not surprisingly, with so much money on hand, multiple security measures are in place at the Charlotte branch.

Cameras track employees’ every move, from multiple angles. On the floor that houses the vault, four robots – not humans – bring in and remove large metal bins that store bills.

Those bins, called buses, can hold as much as $28 million apiece and are stacked from floor to ceiling in the vault, which is as wide as two basketball courts.

Charlotte Fed robot Smash

Generally, employees no longer have to enter the vault ever since the robots were implemented about eight years ago, Stewart said. Not every Fed vault in the U.S. uses such robots yet.

During the Observer’s recent visit, the robots, which resemble large yellow refrigerators, glided into and out of the vault nonstop. The machines remove money from the vault to fill orders for cash placed by banks.

“We have named them Smash, Dash, Crash and Flash,” Stewart said. “That is actually how they behave. ... Smash and Crash really do occasionally smash and crash.”

Stewart declined to disclose how much money is stored in the vault that holds bills or a separate one, about the size of a soccer field, that holds coins.

“It’s a lot,” she said.

On average, Stewart said, the branch takes in about $1.7 million in coins a day and fills orders from financial institutions for about the same amount. The branch also receives about $111 million in cash a day and fills orders for about $124 million, she said.

Many people know that money is not the cleanest thing around. Take it from Stewart, it can get really gross.

“We have some processes and procedures for very nasty money,” she said. “It can be pretty bad, honestly. ... I don’t know why there’s blood on someone’s note.”

Lately, Stewart said, the Fed’s Richmond office has been dealing with moldy money coming from parts of the country dealing with flooding, such as West Virginia.

Other times, a really old bill that’s no longer produced will show up in the branch.

“I want to say ... a $1,000 denomination may have come through,” Stewart said. “But they’re really rare.”

“They’re beautiful, beautiful,” she said. “The old series notes are so intricate in their design, and they just end up being destroyed. It’s kind of sad.”

Seriously? They destroy all old notes? Even $1,000 bills? -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
Inside the vault at the Charlotte Federal Reserve branch cash is still king (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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