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Dimes or quarters? Place your bets.

The United States Mint cut coin production by one-third in the month of April.

Overall, the monthly number was down by 486,260,000 coins to 959,540,000.

March production was 1,445,800,000 pieces.

If large numbers make you roll your eyes, the pattern is clear in percentages.

Overall, April saw a 33.6 percent decline.

Denomination by denomination percentages were nearly identical.

Cent output was down 34.6 percent, nickels were down 33.6 percent, dimes declined by 33.3 percent and quarters were off by 30.9 percent.

Does this cut mean anything?

If you have ever trained someone to drive a car, the 2017 pattern seems to be too hard on the gas and then hard on the brake.

January output began at 1,790.300,000 coins.

The February figure of 983,400,000 was down 45 percent.

If this analogy holds, the Mint will hit the gas again in May and then brake in June.

Let’s hope that rather than this happening, the pattern of the first four months of 2017 won’t be repeated and the analogy is just a silly invention of my mind.

But since I was playing with figures, another thing that I found concerns dimes.

In April, total dimes produced passed the 1 billion mark.

So far this year, dimes comprise 19.33 percent of all coins minted.

This is up 2 percentage points from what was the case in 2014.

The percentages were 17.34 in 2014, 17.84 in 2015, 18.44 in 2016 and now 19.33.

With prices in the economy moving ever higher, it is logical that dime demand would also move up.

The question is will the dime become the new cent?

Collectors with long memories can recall the exploding demand for the cent in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s as inflation roared ahead.

The Mint struggled to improve its production capacity fast enough to keep up with cent demand.

Are dimes the next denomination to follow the path blazed by cents?

It is a fair question, but to answer it, we have to look at the other denominations too.

As a percentage of output, cents have declined from 61.34 percent in 2014 to 55.71 percent in the first four months of 2017.

In the same period, nickel output was steady, comprising 9.1 percent of 2014 output and 9.2 percent in 2017.

Quarters made the biggest leap in the period, going from 11.89 percent to 15.62 percent of coins produced.

So perhaps it is a race between the dime and the quarter.

Which denomination would you bet on to win this race?

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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2 Responses to Dimes or quarters? Place your bets.

  1. So it started. Wasn’t it the other day you said years for the cents. Well something doesn’t smell right and it’s the mint. Oh I don’t think they need money. Everyone in the ANA is complaining there are no 2017 coinage out there. I said it’s coming quicker than you think. Why don’t we just stop the hobby. There not making coins for us to collect. So let’s break the mint and just stop. See what that does to the economy. No more comments, no more forty million eagles. No more gold. Believe it or not that’s the problem. To much gold. No one’s buying it. Everyone wants silver so give that to them. And save the cents. I said it once I will say it again. For every action there is a reaction. Now your seeing it. Collectors are mad store owners are mad banks but let’s get rid of the cent, nickel and the dollar bill. Welcome to chaos. Mike.

  2. Vachon says:

    I don’t know. Seems to me, once the Mint is regularly producing over a billion of any coin, perhaps that denomination is no longer needed. Such high mintages suggest they are not being used, but like cents, are suffering from high rates of attrition.

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