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Can the cent be funny?

Americans have gone deaf to the pro and con arguments regarding the future of the cent.

The cent just is. They don’t want to be bothered to think about it any further.

Collectors wake up to the future of the cent a couple of times a year, debate the issue and then put the topic back on the shelf until the next turn of the cycle.

John Oliver, an HBO comedy show host, has taken up the topic to make the cent question funny.

Does he succeed?

On his program, “Last Week Tonight,” even as he throws out the staple facts that making the cent costs 1.7 cents each and the Mint spends $136 million a year to make $80 million in cents, the studio audience laughs.

He riffs on the topic for 9 minutes and 36 seconds.

This is a triumph of comedic ingenuity to keep the attention of noncollectors focused so long on the topic of the cent’s future.

Often the language he employs is not family friendly. But he packs in the facts.

You will notice in a short video of cents shown in the beginning that there are only Wheat-back cents, which haven’t been made in 56 years. That was funny to me. I expect it will be funny to other collectors in the know, but the average American will just think we collectors are peculiar to laugh in the wrong place in the Oliver video clip.

Oliver runs through the whole gamut of penny facts.

He takes up rounding, dogs eating them and the fact that people don’t pick them up off the street.

Washington lobbying by Americans for Common Cents and the $140,000 spent on lobbying by Jarden Corporation is also cited.

There is even a video clip of a congressional hearing.

In short, if this Oliver piece were a serious discussion, eyes would glaze over, the studio audience would be snoring and I would not have anything to write about.

Perhaps he can be persuaded to give a talk at an educational forum at the ANA.

Oops, better not, there is the matter of his language.

Here is the clip.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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