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Billions and Billions
January 20, 2012

As the son of an accountant, I have always put great stock in numbers and statistics. This has helped me in the field of numismatics because of the steady parade of mintage figures and coin prices and all the many computations one makes in trying to determine whether something might be a good deal or not.

However, I am a piker compared to the average coin dealer. Their ease with numbers as a general matter is a marvel to behold.

None of this means that everybody is equally comfortable with numbers and I had an example of this in my daily mail.

A handwritten note arrived. It was clearly inspired by news of the 1 billion or so Presidential dollars in storage and the decision to suspend the production of additional pieces for circulation.

However, the writer had transformed the numbers and applied them beyond recognition.

The billion $1 coins in storage became billions of dollars in production costs, or as the writer put it, “Last year the U.S. government spent billions of dollars making coins we do not need or use.”

His conclusion was to castigate the Mint for producing cents when it should “use some of the billions and billions of cents that you have stored up.”

Now I know this letter could be referring to the billions of cents that have disappeared into the piggy banks and sock drawers of America, but there is no cent supply in Mint hands that could materially affect output of the denomination.

None of the numbers in the letter will be useful in trying to figure out how the Mint can cut its overall cent production costs from the current 2.41 cents per coin to face value or less.

As the debate about the future of the cent heats up and numbers get thrown around, I will be in hog heaven. I will try to present them to readers as clearly as I can. I failed with this particular reader in the matter of the surplus Presidential dollars.

More Coin Collecting Resources:

State Quarters Deluxe Folder By Warmans

• Subscribe to our Coin Price Guide, buy Coin Books Coin Folders and join the NumisMaster VIP Program

Strike It Rich with Pocket Change, 2nd Edition

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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