Is the U.S. public taking the process of abolishing the cent into its own hands?
That might seem to be a funny question to ask as the U.S. Mint announces that it has struck almost 4.8 billion cents in the first nine months of the calendar year 2012.
That’s a lot of cents.
But is it?
Demand for the cent is but a pale shadow of what it once was.
The culminating year of high cent demand from the 1990s economic boom was the year 2000 when 14.3 billion cents were struck.
Even if the average monthly production of 530 million cents continues until the end of the year, the annual production would reach a figure of 6.4 billion coins.
That is a 55 percent drop from the 2000 production level.
We all know Congress has been nibbling along the edges for years about the fate of the cent. It will do so again next year when it has a new Mint report in its hands relating to the coin’s future and potential compositions.
However, have the American people given up their emotional attachment to the cent in their day-to-day lives and are they simply stopping or reducing their use of it?
To be sure, all coin production is down from the year 2000, but no other denomination is under the twin threats of cost of production of 2.41 times face value and what could be a growing public indifference to its existence.
Even in our present difficult economic times, cent demand should be higher if the only factor influencing demand is economic conditions.
Hard times, you might think, would cause people to pinch every penny and make sure bills are settled to that last decimal point, but that does not seem to be what is going on if what I see in my day-to-day life is any guide.
So I repeat the question:
Are Americans getting ahead of the Congress and engaging in a process of abolishing the cent in their own lives?
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."