This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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When you looked at the front page of this paper, did you find yourself studying the monthly Mint coin production report?
For about the last two years I have found that I enjoy reading those numbers more and more. I certainly have been giving them prominent location in this paper so we can all follow the impact that the state of the economy has on coin output.
Now there is nothing new in saying that the economy has an impact on mintage levels. It always has had. However, we have been experiencing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and this caused a massive downward fluctuation in mintage totals the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 1930s.
Collectors would have noticed this, because that is what we do, but because last year also saw the issuance of four commemorative Lincoln cents, that interest was much more intense. The intensity came from the desire of many to obtain the new coins from their local banks as they were released.
Frustration ensued when we discovered that the current banking system doesn’t issue to the public hot and cold running coins for all occasions. In fact, most bankers would probably prefer to get rid of coins completely. If you aren’t a regular and esteemed client, you might have found yourself not getting the time of day.
Now I learned this lesson back in 1969 when I moved from the very small town of Lake Mills, Iowa, to the larger city of Racine, Wis.
My circulation finds efforts ran into a brick wall in Racine. My results in 1969 were pretty well petering out as public hoarding of silver coins and the onrush of clad coinage made slim pickings, but I wasn’t ready to give up. The 40 percent silver halves still yielded the occasional 1964 Kennedy half dollar. But the bank my parents chose did not consider the task of supplying me with coins to look at to be one of their priorities.
By the second attempt to get some coins, the “humor the kid” smile turned into the “I’m sorry” frown.
And, anyway, after that, the billions and billions of cents and hundreds of millions of everything else didn’t make it seem like time well spent to try to spot a coin worth saving.
Even the appearance of the 1972 doubled-die cent passed me by, though I was truly envious of those who still had access to coin supplies from cooperative banks.
So now for the time being, those monthly mintage numbers have assumed an importance they have not enjoyed in my mind for about 40 years.
With mintages rising again from the lows of 2009, it is logical to assume that this higher level of interest in mintage numbers for circulated coinage will once again recede to insignificance.
However, it has been great to feel that mintages do matter again and to pay attention to the relative output of dimes, quarters and half dollars as well as cents.
When this time passes, we will still have the mintages of bullion coins and collectible special issues to examine, but they just aren’t the same, are they?
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