How many more years will we continue to use the cent?
People who want it abolished say it has virtually no purchasing power and the government loses money on each one struck.
People who want to keep it say without it, inflationary price rises will occur as every price is rounded to the nearest nickel.
They also say providing the cent is a necessary service to commerce and, if it costs the government money to do this, so be it. That’s what government is for.
Both of these positions put the future of the cent in the hands of the politicians in government. They are inclined to let things remain as they are.
But there is an option that puts the future of the cent in the hands of the people.
If people simply stop using the cent, it will pass away.
The question is, will they?
Years ago, the late writer Paul Green introduced the concept of abolishing coins by refusing to use them.
People of a country can reach a point when it is more bother to use a low-denomination coin than to abandon it.
Green’s experience was based on his daily life in Costa Rica. It was easy to spot aluminum 5- and 10-colones coins lying in the street.
At the time the public stopped caring about them, the exchange rate took more than 500 colones to equal one U.S. dollar.
That made the face value of the two coins one cent and two cents, respectively.
That apparently was low enough to not bother with.
In the United States, we find cents lying in the street.
I still pick them up. Many others do, too.
Are we on the verge of the public abandoning use of the denomination?
If you look at mintages in recent years, you can’t support that contention.
So far in 2018, cents comprise 61.64 percent of all circulating coins struck by the U.S. Mint.
That’s a huge number.
If you look back through the years 2011 to 2017, you can see the percentage fluctuate to as low as 54.94 in 2015 and as high as 64.44 percent in 2012.
There is no downtrend.
Put the percentages in chronological order and you can see this:
60.22, 64.44, 59.38, 61.34, 54.94, 56.93, 58.10 and 61.64.
If you are looking for a trend, the case that we are in an uptrend is stronger.
The last four percentages show a pattern of gains.
For collectors, not knowing the future of the cent is probably a helpful situation.
There are few topics that generate more heated discussion among us than whether the cent should be abolished.
It looks like we’ll be talking about this topic for many years to come.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
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