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Old and new continue to battle

For every Apple announcement of new products and advances in the electronic economy, there seems to be another news story about computer hackers gaining access to personal data.

While our future will not be without problems, one day I think it looks like coinage will become obsolete much faster than I thought previously. The next day I ask why anyone would risk his financial well-being by doing anything at all online.

Ping-ponging back and forth between the extremes depending on the news story of the day is not a recipe for anything other than intellectual whiplash.

Demand for new coins is still running at roughly half the rate of the year 2000. But 14 billion coins is still a lot of coins.

In the year 2000, high coin demand could be attributed to an economy that is better than it is now, the unemployment rate was lower and computer equipment was much less sophisticated.

With Apple’s new Apple Pay beginning next month, I can see how wonderfully convenient a universal payment system would be if all I had to do was tap my phone on a reader.

I expect even I would stop paying cash for my lunches at the Crystal Cafe.

In talking with Mint Director Richard Peterson in August he said that even with electronic advances there is still an underlying demand for coins.

That might not always be the case, but it is the situation now.

I am reminded how far my own thinking has changed over the years. Every week since March I take my mother grocery shopping.

She still pays the bill with cash. She keeps a coin purse and counts out exact change.

After coming up short by a cent this past Saturday, she was embarrassed to have to accept a coin from the Take-A-Penny tray suggested by the clerk. But this occurred only after every nook and cranny of her purse was checked out.

She is not the only one who does this. I see people of similar ages doing the same thing.

While I have not urged my mother to use a credit or debit card at the grocery store, I have suggested she simply hand clerks larger bills ($10s and $20s) rather than fiddling with coins and $1 bills.

When I tell her it slows transactions down when she counts out $1 bills and coins to the penny, she kind of looks blankly at me. Then after a pause she will say, “I don’t always do it.”

For her generation what she does is simply the way it is done. End of story.

Apple Pay will not affect her life. Coins will continue.

I will continue to get whiplash thinking about their future. That’s the nature of the good news, bad news flow of progress.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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