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Is the end of coins hidden in plain sight?

The end of coins has been a topic collectors have talked about for many years.

We still have coins.

End of discussion?

Not quite.

How would the end of coins arrive in our society?

Would we recognize it if we were in the middle of it?

Most of us probably think the end of coins will come like a thunderbolt, like Canada abolishing the cent.

What if the end of coins comes another way?

What if the process is more subtle?

What if it is like a frog being boiled gradually that doesn’t jump out of the pot?

We just don’t notice each little step along the way.

The U.S. Mint has reported that, in the first quarter of calendar year 2018, it has struck 3,570,974,000 coins.

That’s a big number.

If the Mint strikes coins at this pace throughout 2018, it will achieve an output of 14,283,896,000.

That’s an even bigger number.

However, this number would represent the third year in a row of output declines.

The peak year of the current economic cycle was 2015, when 17,046,700,000 coins were struck.

The 2016 output of 16,017,410,000 was 6 percent fewer.

The 2017 production of 14,859,360,000 was 7 percent lower than 2016.

The projected 2018 number would be 4 percent lower than 2017.

Those three years would make a trend that knocked the Mint’s coin output down by over 16 percent.

That’s huge.

An economic recession always knocks coin production lower. People out of work don’t spend as much, so they get less change.

But what is new is we have been living the last three years with a growing economy and a shrinking coin output.

The peak U.S. coinage year, the year 2000, came in at 25 billion.

2018 would represent a whack of 43 percent.

We might be nearly halfway to the abolition of coins in the United States.

And we didn’t notice it.

Like the frog, we didn’t jump, either.

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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