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Never used coins?

The debate about when Americans will stop using cash is one that will continue for many years.

But before that end date occurs, will we have a group of people who do not know how to use cash even if they have it?

That probably sounds like an absurd question, but it occurred to me last week as I experienced a number of cash transactions in Iola, Wis., that involved receipt of change.

It no longer surprises me when cashiers take out a small calculator to tell them how much change to give me from a $10 bill for, say, my $8.43 lunch tab last Tuesday.

I am used to that.

Doing these small sums in their heads when the cash register does not tell them has completely gone out of regular experience unless the cashiers have gray hair like I do.

However, with the back-to-school season there are some new high school students working as cashiers at local businesses.

One seemed completely puzzled at how to arrive at the figure the cash register indicated by using standard coins in the drawer.

She got there – eventually – but the experience was almost like watching someone gradually adding a quantity of something to a scale to make the correct weight.

She got closer to the correct sum by taking dimes out of the drawer one at a time.

I had many more dimes in my change when all was said and done than standard use of coins would dictate.

There were quarters in the drawer. I could see them. It was not a matter of getting dimes to make up for a shortage of other denominations. I expect she will be an old pro after a week goes by.

However, as more and more people use credit cards and debit cards, the act of counting out coins in change by cashiers of any age is becoming less and less frequent.

I had a paper route when I was a kid. I handled coins from a very young age.

Nowadays there is much less opportunity for young people to handle change on any kind of a regular basis.

Those who do not get a job as a cashier will not ever be put in an environment where they will learn to get comfortable with coins.

In cases like this, they will not abandon cash so much as never taking up its use in the first place.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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