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Giving up the cent

The cent has been a hot topic of discussion by collectors and the subject of the “Numismatic News” online poll. Both sides of the abolition question weigh in, with the majority still leaning to retention of the historic denomination.

However, opinions aside, are the American people through their use patterns giving the coin up?

I ask the question because I took a look at the total cent production in the first quarter of 2008. It stands at 1,053,600,000. That’s a large number until you start making some comparisons.

If that is the quarterly production figure, it is fair to project that production for the year will be four times that amount, or 4,214,400,000 coins.

That figure is down from the total in 2007, which was 7,401,200,000. The 2006 total was 8,234,000,000.

See the pattern? It seems dramatic, but if you go back to the peak of the last boom times, the year 2000 production totals, what do you think the number is?


Wow. Ten billion fewer cents will be produced this year than in 2000. That’s billion with a “b.”

That’s a significant decline no matter how you slice it. I am sure you have heard it pointed out that Coinstar, which puts counting machines in supermarkets, recirculates more cents than was the case in the past.

It is true, but is this factor sufficient to explain the huge mintage drop or is there something else at work?

More credit transactions perhaps? Spontaneous rounding or use of the now common “take a penny” dish at many shops?

World coin collectors are used to seeing inflation in other countries push coins out of use. Is it happening here?

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4 Responses to Giving up the cent

  1. Mark says:

    I have not seen a 2008 penny yet, nor have I seen a 2008 nickel or dime. I have gotten a few Oklahoma quarters. Has anyone gotten seen and 2008 pennies, nickels or dimes?

  2. Scott in DC says:

    An interesting study would look at the amount of change that returned to circulation during difficult economic times as comparison for the recent decline of cent production. Was there a similar decline in 1988 after the crash on Black Monday? What about when stagflation hit during the 1970s?

    There is evidence that during better times following tough economic times that shows people hoard coins as a hedge against future issues. Look at all the hoards of change being found upon the death of people who grew up during the Great Depression. They "saved their pennies" as a hedge against a future economic crash. I would suspect that the reduction of cent production is tied to the economic downturns as much as the rise in the use of credit since the last downturn following 2001.

  3. Coin Update says:

    I agree with Scott about the impact of difficult economic times. Numismaster recently had an article about recessions being responsible for many key date coins. (although, I don’t think 4B will ever qualify as a key date)

  4. Steve Rothgeb says:

    Hi there,
    I tried to post my take on penny and nickle removal from our coinage [so I hope this comment makes it]…c’mon folks–I’m nostalgic as the next guy but I just can’t justify an annual expense of 100 million just for some spotted, nasty pennies and BORING nickles to pile up in my change bank. I suppose I’m not as numismatically responsible as I should be…but, I’m definitely not alone here! There is probably trillions worth of change piling up in folks homes, NOT doing a darn thing but lay there [not unlike a brother-in-law I’m stuck with!].
    I propose dropping both the nickle and penny…replace those with a 2 1/2 cent coin..made out of a decent metal–bronze comes to mind. We should also drop the half dollar from circulation…and drop the 1 and 5 dollar bills–and have even better looking coins to fill that void…We’d save on bill production costs most effectively–I’d reckon. Yes, I’m sure that folks would complain about carrying all those heavy coins…but, to save more than 100 million bucks annually, I say, "Deal with it!"
    OK and now for my ‘bestest’ plan…..have collector versions of all the coins in limited numbers and run-times…Imagine opening up the latest mint or proof set and seeing ‘brand new’ Indian heads, Buffaloes, mercury dimes, and my all time fave–the standing liberty qts! I suppose we should also run half dollars or just assign them a place in our commem program…?
    Anywho–you guys tell me…how’d I do? I’m almost totally new to this hobby…did I make any sense at all?
    warm regards,

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