Skip to main content

Watch circulating mintages continue to shrink

The pace of circulating coin production continued to slide in the month of April.

Only 878,740,000 pieces came off the presses of the Philadelphia and Denver Mints combined.

Each month in calendar year 2018, coin production dropped from the month before.

If we annualize this four months of coin production to 12 months, the Mint would strike 13,349,142,000 pieces in 2018.

That looks like a large figure, but it would be a 10.2 percent reduction from calendar year 2017.

Sliding coinage numbers is not the usual pattern in a growing economy.

In my April 24 blog, I pointed out that the peak coin production year of the current economic growth cycle was 2015, when 17,046,700,000 coins were struck for circulation.

The banking crisis of 2008 caused 2009 coin output to plunge to roughly 3.5 billion, the lowest since the late 1950s.

But the trend of annual increases in coin output each year thereafter went into reverse.

The 2016 output of 16,017,410,000 was 6 percent fewer than 2015.

The 2017 production of 14,859,360,000 was 7 percent lower than 2016.

One conclusion that can be drawn from the trend is more Americans are reducing or abandoning their use of cash.

Another is that even with these shrinking numbers, there are still enough coins being struck to prevent any from becoming scarce and valuable.

That is true, unless of course you look beyond these monthly figures and go to the collectible numbers that appear each week on the Mint Statistics pages of Numismatic News.

Since 2012, the Mint has been striking circulation-finish quarters at the San Francisco Mint. They feature the “S” mintmark.

The Mint sells these quarters in bags of 100, or rolls of 40 coins, directly to collectors.

If you look at the mintages of these ongoing offers, they are little more than one million pieces each.

I did the math for the 2017 Frederick Douglass coins. The total is 1,203,840.

Will this and other America the Beautiful quarters be scarce and valuable someday?

Certainly they will be more so than run-of-the-mill quarters from Philadelphia and Denver.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

• Like this blog? Read more by subscribing to Numismatic News.