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It's Not Just The Cent
January 27, 2012


It seems like collectors have been talking about the future of the U.S. cent forever. In dog years, we have.

Ever since production costs exceeded face value approximately six years ago, we have speculated among ourselves as to what the future holds.

In government years, the process is still unfolding.

We have another year to go before the Mint will submit a report to Congress and Congress could act on any recommendations rapidly, slowly or not at all.

That means we collectors get to talk about it again and again and I can pose additional weekly poll questions about the future of the cent. Collectors never seem to tire in their responses to these. Participation is always high.

Yesterday my colleague Debbie Bradley and I had an opportunity to interview by telephone Richard Peterson, deputy director of the U.S. Mint, who has guided the institution since he was given a temporary title last year of acting Mint director.

As he said yesterday, it had been a year and a day since he was given the top role if not the permanent title of Mint director.

The future of the cent, of course, was one topic of the interview.

He got the boilerplate in about Congress making policy and the Mint simply executing it.

But collectors know that the policy Congress chooses to make depends on the options given to it and public reaction to them.

By law, the Mint is working to minimize the impact of any possible changes on the vending machine industry.

As in 1965, the Mint has hired an outside consultant to assist in this process.

Will we have a 1965 outcome?

Back then, we had a fairly extensive overhaul leading to the adoption of the copper-nickel clad alloy that has been the staple of dimes, quarters and half dollars for almost 50 years.

Can the Mint offer and Congress adopt a coinage template for future years involving changes to most or all of the denominations that would rival in duration what was done in 1965 when the high price of silver was the problem, or will Congress choose to simply nibble around the edges?

Whatever happens, I will get many more poll questions out of this process.

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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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