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Giving up the cent

The cent has been a hot topic of discussion by collectors and the subject of the "Numismatic News" online poll. Both sides of the abolition question weigh in, with the majority still leaning to retention of the historic denomination.

However, opinions aside, are the American people through their use patterns giving the coin up?

I ask the question because I took a look at the total cent production in the first quarter of 2008. It stands at 1,053,600,000. That’s a large number until you start making some comparisons.

If that is the quarterly production figure, it is fair to project that production for the year will be four times that amount, or 4,214,400,000 coins.

That figure is down from the total in 2007, which was 7,401,200,000. The 2006 total was 8,234,000,000.

See the pattern? It seems dramatic, but if you go back to the peak of the last boom times, the year 2000 production totals, what do you think the number is?


Wow. Ten billion fewer cents will be produced this year than in 2000. That’s billion with a “b.”

That’s a significant decline no matter how you slice it. I am sure you have heard it pointed out that Coinstar, which puts counting machines in supermarkets, recirculates more cents than was the case in the past.

It is true, but is this factor sufficient to explain the huge mintage drop or is there something else at work?

More credit transactions perhaps? Spontaneous rounding or use of the now common “take a penny” dish at many shops?

World coin collectors are used to seeing inflation in other countries push coins out of use. Is it happening here?