When I was a kid, I said July was my favorite month. School was out. Swimming and other outdoor activities were in, and when I needed a break from the sun, I could always head down into the cool basement and search through coin rolls.
In short, in my mind, July was about as great a month as there could be.
Nowadays, July seems to have taken on new meaning as we Americans seem to use it annually to collectively decide that economic conditions are not what we would hope they would be.
From my perch in Iola, things don’t look that bad. Admittedly, the things I look at don’t represent a scientific sampling of the state of the economy of the United States, but I think there is still some relevance.
The Mint has just posted its June monthly coin production numbers. They continue the uptrend begun after coin production bottomed out in 2009 at a roughly 50-year-low level of 3.5 billion coins.
Readers still ask me why it is so hard to find 2009-dated coins, especially the nickel and the dime. All you have to do is look at the 2009 production numbers and you will know why. This compares to roughly 25 billion coins that were struck in 2000.
Rising coin production means an improving economy. More coins are needed the more transactions there are to make.
As of the end of June 2012, the Mint had struck 4,817,550,000 coins. That beats in six months the entire 2009 coin production. More importantly, it extends a winning streak. In 2010, the first six months of the year saw output of 2,825,350,000 coins. In 2011, the six-month total was up by 46 percent to 4,124,010,000 coins. This year’s number is a 17 percent improvement on last year’s.
Pessimists will, of course, note that a 17 percent year-over-year gain is not as large as a 46 percent gain. That is certainly true, but a 17 percent improvement is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you consider that cash transactions continue to decline as a percentage of all transactions. I think of this most often when I use my credit card to pay a bill at McDonald’s and I wonder what’s happened to me.
At this rate, 2012 coin output will come in at around 9.6 billion pieces, almost 2.75 times the mintage level in 2009.
If I throw in the “help wanted” signs I have been seeing as I drive out and about this part of Wisconsin, my sense is this is confirmation of what the coin mintage numbers are saying.
Even steady economic improvement is not likely to take us anywhere near the year 2000 mintage figures any time soon. When I look at the quarter mintages in the year 2000 alone, I wonder how we absorbed 6,470,932,000 quarters. The state quarter program was certainly an incredible experience for all collectors as well as the country. Demand for these quarters was not simply an economic function, but a national collecting phenomenon. Times now aren’t as good, but its the direction that counts.