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No future for Mint?

Collectors love to debate the future of the cent.

It looks set to continue in production for at least two more years as the Mint needs more time for its ongoing evaluation of the state of American coinage and the possible alternative compositions.

With the many individuals advocating the continuing production of the cent no matter what the cost, we rarely if ever go beyond the question of continuing cent production or ending it.

However, an even bigger question would loom if the day comes when the cent actually is abolished.

The next question stated in its most dramatic terms is should the Mint itself be abolished? Is it becoming this generation’s typewriter factory? It almost seems like heresy to ask such a question of something that has been around since 1792. But that’s just the problem. It has been around since 1792 – and the world is changing.

In the year 2012, the Mint produced 6,015,200,000 cents. This is 64.42 percent of the 9,336,230,000 coins produced during the year.

If the cent is abolished, two-thirds of the reason the Mint exists would go with it. You throw in abolishing the nickel for the same cost reason as the cent and you are up to three-quarters of the reason the Mint exists.

Even if we set the cost issue aside, long-term trends for coin use are not encouraging, though demand has bounced back from the 50-year low of 2009.

Even I managed to have a day yesterday without the use of coins despite the fact that I am always looking for opportunities to spend a little cash to see what might be circulating out there.

Most people are not as motivated as I am to keep a little folding money in their wallet. They use debit cards to control their budgets and credit cards to rack up frequent flyer miles or other credit balance bonuses that the banks use to lure us into using their cards.

Cash still has its uses, though that can continue to exist even without coins.

With the profound dislike Americans have of using high denomination coins, it appears that the cent and the Mint will sink or swim together.

One ray of sunshine, which you might already have thought of, is demand for bullion coins, but that is a topic for another day.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."