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Dimes or quarters? Place your bets.

The United States Mint cut coin production by one-third in the month of April.


Overall, the monthly number was down by 486,260,000 coins to 959,540,000.

March production was 1,445,800,000 pieces.

If large numbers make you roll your eyes, the pattern is clear in percentages.

Overall, April saw a 33.6 percent decline.

Denomination by denomination percentages were nearly identical.

Cent output was down 34.6 percent, nickels were down 33.6 percent, dimes declined by 33.3 percent and quarters were off by 30.9 percent.

Does this cut mean anything?

If you have ever trained someone to drive a car, the 2017 pattern seems to be too hard on the gas and then hard on the brake.

January output began at 1,790.300,000 coins.

The February figure of 983,400,000 was down 45 percent.

If this analogy holds, the Mint will hit the gas again in May and then brake in June.

Let’s hope that rather than this happening, the pattern of the first four months of 2017 won’t be repeated and the analogy is just a silly invention of my mind.

But since I was playing with figures, another thing that I found concerns dimes.

In April, total dimes produced passed the 1 billion mark.

So far this year, dimes comprise 19.33 percent of all coins minted.

This is up 2 percentage points from what was the case in 2014.

The percentages were 17.34 in 2014, 17.84 in 2015, 18.44 in 2016 and now 19.33.

With prices in the economy moving ever higher, it is logical that dime demand would also move up.

The question is will the dime become the new cent?

Collectors with long memories can recall the exploding demand for the cent in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s as inflation roared ahead.

The Mint struggled to improve its production capacity fast enough to keep up with cent demand.

Are dimes the next denomination to follow the path blazed by cents?

It is a fair question, but to answer it, we have to look at the other denominations too.

As a percentage of output, cents have declined from 61.34 percent in 2014 to 55.71 percent in the first four months of 2017.

In the same period, nickel output was steady, comprising 9.1 percent of 2014 output and 9.2 percent in 2017.

Quarters made the biggest leap in the period, going from 11.89 percent to 15.62 percent of coins produced.

So perhaps it is a race between the dime and the quarter.

Which denomination would you bet on to win this race?

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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