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Cent on way out?

With the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln occurring next year and the 100th anniversary mark being attained by the Lincoln cent, there is a lot of talk going on in hobby circles about the lowest current U.S. coin denomination.

Its future is rather bleak. Inflation is killing it, aided by changing purchasing habits of Americans. It is far easier to swipe a credit or debit card through the reader and give an electronic signature than it is to count out cash and wait for change. Using cards also eliminates many trips to the bank or ATM to replenish cash walking around money.

Since the peak production at the height of the last economic boom in the year 2000, cent production has not ever returned to the approximately 14 billion that were struck in that year.

In fact, last year’s production of roughly 7.4 billion cents had actually fallen from the approximately 8.2 billion of the year before.

Part of this can be attributed to the slowing economy, but not all of it. In prior cycles, coinage peaks in one cycle were regularly exceeded in the following cycle. Not this time.

Americans may be voluntarily abandoning the denomination. Such a death by natural causes is far preferable to political murder. As the Treasury secretary found out Friday when he told a radio program that his personal opinion was he would like to get rid of the cent.

The usual howls went up even as he told the same interviewer that it wasn’t politically doable.

Why raise the issue at all? Good question. What do you think?