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Mintage numbers require a little figuring

At the beginning of every month my father, the retired accountant, might be proud of me if he knew how much time I spend mentally slicing and dicing the monthly Mint production report.

The Mint supplies numbers through the month in question and for me to supply readers with the monthly figures in a table, I subtract the totals through April from the totals through May and voila, if my poor brain holds up, they should add up to the production figures for the month of May.

Some numbers are broken out separately by the Mint. The numbers for the District of Columbia and Territorial quarters are. Thanks to the state quarter program that preceded it,  mintages are handily provided by the Mint and so are Presidential dollars by design.

Cents are not normally broken down by design, so some quick time with a calculator lets me conclude how we stand through the month of May. See the story on Page 4.

At the present time, there are more of the first design than of the second, but this might easily change when the June numbers are recorded.

Total cent production in May was up by more than 50 million coins, so perhaps the collector frenzy about the denomination, the letters to the editor griping about the difficulty of obtaining cents for face value and feedback to banks that don’t have the new coins might be having an effect – or not.

The trouble with trying to discern trends as they are unfolding is that one month’s numbers can be an aberration. And, even if they are not, economic conditions could push up demand or push it further down as the year continues to unfold. None of us can know that.

Anybody who can predict this accurately has a bright future at some econometrics firm, or perhaps with the Mint itself. All we can say for certain is the Mint does not like to floor the production accelerator and then slam on the brakes. It would much rather produce at a nice steady pace all year long. This is easier on Mint staff and certainly easier on Mint suppliers.

Playing around with these mintage numbers reminds me just how fantastically agile many collectors and dealers are with numbers. I envy them. A lifetime with changing mintages and changing prices, dates, writing up invoices and the like keeps them in practice.

I have often wondered how the youngsters who grew up with calculators will fit into this business. You have to be at least a dozen years younger than me to have gone through school with calculators available. The expensive ones arrived on the scene as I was finishing high school. My high school chemistry class in my junior year was the last to use the slide rule.

The heyday of any collector is when he has the freedom of disposable income to spend on his hobby. For most, this means the kids are out of college and on their own, so – most frequently – Dad can begin to seriously satisfy an interest in coins that dates back to when he himself was a kid. Those who grew up with calculators haven’t quite made it to that exalted point, but time is flying by and they will join us soon.

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