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Quarters zoom higher

Quarter production at the U.S. Mint put on a jet pack this year.

In the first nine months of calendar year 2015 almost 2.5 billion pieces were struck.

If you want to see the number in all its glory of zeroes, it is 2,463,820,000.

This is up 56 percent from the 2014 12-month output of 1,580,200,000 pieces.

The 2015 output number looks even more impressive when compared to the recent low point in quarters produced. This occurred in 2010. In that year only 347 million quarters were made.

The 2015 number is up a staggering 610 percent from that low and there are three months yet to go in the calendar year.

But as impressive as this number might seem, it tells only half the story.

When the economy went into decline during the financial crisis in 2008, quarter output went into decline with it.

Fewer economic transactions occur during recessions, so fewer coins are needed to make them.

If you add in the fact that many families were scrambling just to keep food on the table, you understand why so many raided their piggy banks, or even their collections of state quarter rolls to help pay the bills.

By doing this, they were returning quarters already produced to the banking system.

In turn, these extra supplies caused the Federal Reserve to order fewer quarters from the Mint.

This phenomenon occurs to a degree in every recession, but there has been nothing like it since the 1930s Great Depression as reflected in recent quarter mintages.

In essence, quarter production has now exceeded the 2008 output of 2,438,200,000 for the first time. That production number from seven years ago reflected the prosperity that came to an end in the Lehman crisis in September.

By then, the financial debacle had little time left to register itself on the number of quarters being ordered by banks.

So as good as this 2015 performance number might sound, we need to remember there is still a long way to go to reach the historic quarter production high.

In the year 2000, 6,470,932,000 quarters were made.

Will that number ever be topped again?

Output in 2000 was aided by demand from a 150 million Americans who said they collected state quarters, according to U.S. Mint research.

It was in any case just the second year of an enormously popular collector program.

Perhaps in a roundabout way this interest in state quarters in 2000 saved more than a few families from hardship when they cashed their coins in after the 2008 market crash.

We will never know.

But I would like to think state quarters that had been squirreled away helped people when they most needed it.

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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