Am I in favor of the abolition of the U.S. cent?
I was asked a form of that question in a second email from a Washington correspondent of a world news organization.
I brought it on myself. It is the numismatic equivalent of “when did you stop beating your wife?”
I had answered a prior email that informed me that the correspondent was working on a story about whether the United States and the United Kingdom should follow Canada’s example and abolish the cent. Would the end of the cent be good or bad from a hobby point of view?
I was eager to help another journalist and typed a reply as rapidly as my fingers would move:
“Abolishing the cent would give coin collecting a big boost. Whenever there is a significant change that the public will notice, it leads to more people collecting coins,” I wrote.
I threw in something that I hoped would tie the present situation with something of relevance to a British audience.
“I, myself, bought the British Royal Mint’s last pre-decimal proof set as the United Kingdom made the transition to decimal coinage. It felt like holding onto a slice of the past before it disappeared forever. That’s how Americans would view the disappearance of the cent.”
Does it sound like I am being a cheerleader for the cent abolition cause?
My remarks continued, “However, many collectors feel that to say that is somehow disloyal to numismatics. To advocate abolition of a denomination is somehow denying future collectors the pleasure of collecting it. This overlooks the fact that we have had many denominations, like the half cent, 2 cents, 3 cents, (and) 20 cents, that were abolished and they are still being collected.”
What do you think so far? Nothing like my trying to be helpful, is there?
A little while later, I received a reply to my email that inquired if I supported the abolition of the cent and also asked whether I could be quoted.
Uh-oh. Just what I need, an international audience informed that an American numismatic editor hates the cent. After all, if I want to see it abolished, I must hate it, right?
I wrote another quick reply.
“I am not advocating the cent’s abolition, though that does not make me a blind defender either, nor does it prevent me from stating the pro-abolition case in my weekly column or daily Buzz blog.
“I have written that the financial case for dropping the cent is a strong one and that abolition will happen one day, but that Congress likely will simply change the composition this time because it will not want to cause a public uproar by abolishing it.”
Have I reached the safe high ground yet in my flood of words, or do I sound mealy-mouthed?
It looks like this will be a topic of discussion for at least another year and readers have expressed their views both pro and coin in their letters. It also looks like I have “boldly” straddled the issue.