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Good ideas flow like beer in Berlin

If you saw the front page, you must be aware that I have been at the World Money Fair in Berlin, Germany.

This was my fifth trip and I still felt like kid visiting the circus for the first time. There was so much to see. There were so many people to talk to. There were so many new coins (and old) to look at.

All the while in the back of my mind was the worry that I might be missing something. And, of course, I was.
Fortunately, Krause Publications sends four of us to attend. Even with four, it can be overwhelming with over 50 mints in attendance, a couple of hundred coin dealers and thousands of attendees who are willing to pay 7 euros ($9.20) daily admission.

Right away I was asked by the president of the World Money Fair, Hans-Henning Goehrum, why the U.S. Mint did not have a booth at the show like it used to have years ago. He knows my area of responsibility is Numismatic News, so perhaps he figured I might offer some insight.

My response seemed inadequate. Talking about the cost-cutting mood in Washington sounded kind of flat.

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Last week’s paper contained a story about the U.S. Mint not likely to close a mint facility because of dropping demand for coinage. Mint Director Richard A. Peterson said the infrastructure is paid for and it is staffed for production of 10 billion coins, so why close anything?

Well, listening to a presentation by Royal Australian Mint Chief Executive Officer Ross MacDiarmid in Berlin makes me wonder how long such a U.S. plan can last.

MacDiarmid said RAM invested $88 million to upgrade its facility and now it is mostly robotic. Thirteen coining presses are tended by three or four staff.

He also said something that made me as a U.S. collector sit up and take notice. He said RAM, after a supply chain analysis, decided that it was better for the mint to supply the county’s banks with coins directly rather than go through that nation’s Federal Reserve equivalent, the Reserve Bank of Australia.

If it is more efficient for RAM to distribute coins, might this approach be considered by the United States? After all, the U.S. Mint is blamed by collectors for the fact that many banks do not have supplies of new coins as they are issued. Explaining that the U.S. Mint doesn’t actually take care of delivering coins to banks has never cut much ice with readers.

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Naturally, Australia has a lower population than the United States and needs fewer coins, but the ideas of greater efficiency and reform still might have some application to the U.S. Mint.

The Berlin show is also a font of new ideas and of world mints watching each other to see which good ideas should be quickly copied in order to cash in, too.

Should the U.S. Mint have a booth at the World Money Fair and the visibility it would give?

Yes. It would be good for the institution – and I wouldn’t be asked questions about it I cannot answer.

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