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It's not just the cent

It seems like collectors have been talking about the future of the U.S. cent forever. In dog years, we have.

Ever since production costs exceeded face value approximately six years ago, we have speculated among ourselves as to what the future holds.

In government years, the process is still unfolding.

We have another year to go before the Mint will submit a report to Congress and Congress could act on any recommendations rapidly, slowly or not at all.

That means we collectors get to talk about it again and again and I can pose additional weekly poll questions about the future of the cent. Collectors never seem to tire in their responses to these. Participation is always high.

Yesterday my colleague Debbie Bradley and I had an opportunity to interview by telephone Richard Peterson, deputy director of the U.S. Mint, who has guided the institution since he was given a temporary title last year of acting Mint director.

As he said yesterday, it had been a year and a day since he was given the top role if not the permanent title of Mint director.

The future of the cent, of course, was one topic of the interview.

He got the boilerplate in about Congress making policy and the Mint simply executing it.

But collectors know that the policy Congress chooses to make depends on the options given to it and public reaction to them.

By law, the Mint is working to minimize the impact of any possible changes on the vending machine industry.

As in 1965, the Mint has hired an outside consultant to assist in this process.

Will we have a 1965 outcome?

Back then, we had a fairly extensive overhaul leading to the adoption of the copper-nickel clad alloy that has been the staple of dimes, quarters and half dollars for almost 50 years.

Can the Mint offer and Congress adopt a coinage template for future years involving changes to most or all of the denominations that would rival in duration what was done in 1965 when the high price of silver was the problem, or will Congress choose to simply nibble around the edges?

Whatever happens, I will get many more poll questions out of this process.