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Cents action or delay?

It’s the day after the election and nobody is probably thinking about the future of U.S. coinage.

The political capital of both parties will be used in the upcoming effort to avoid the fiscal cliff, the combination of tax rises and defense cuts that kick in automatically when 2013 begins as a result of the the 2011 deal to raise the national debt ceiling.

That means we will be ignored for a while longer yet even as the Mint is due to submit its report to Congress on Dec. 13.

I have not seen the report, but it doesn’t take inside knowledge to point out the obvious: something will have to be done with the cent and the nickel so that taxpayers won’t have to continue to pay more to make them than we get when the government spends them.

If you wanted to maximize revenue to the government, the Congress would abolish the cent and strike the nickel, dime, quarter and half dollar out of a new composition of coated or plated steel.

This, of course, would engender a backlash of sorts. Saying Canada has done it will probably not cut much ice.

However, if the question were posed in the fiscal cliff negotiations as do you want to cut Social Security benefits or defense spending by a quarter of a billion dollars or would you rather add a quarter of a billion dollars in cost savings or added revenue to the Mint’s account the answer might be to follow Canada’s lead.

The choice suddenly ceases to be about coin matters and about other matters that most politicians would view as more important.

Will the question of changes to coinage be posed in this way?

I expect not. Our wait for a clear pathway to the future of U.S. coinage likely will continue.

But you never know.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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