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Mintage Numbers Collapse
January 19, 2010

Is this the year the Mint suspends the coinage of some denominations completely?

That is a question that needs to be asked in light of the collapse of production in 2009.

Overall production dropped by 65 percent last year, or 6,593,580,000 pieces from the 2008 level of 10,141,580,000.

The 3,548,000,000 total mintage from 2009 wouldn’t even be a reasonable number for cents from one facility alone in a normal year.

Collectors who grew up wondering things like why were no half dollars produced in the years 1930, 1931 and 1932, or no quarters in 1931 and 1933, now are seeing a replay of how a weak economy causes a rapid drop in the demand for coinage.

Economic statistics showed that retail sales dropped 6.5 percent last year, something not seen since the Depression.

Fewer transactions mean less demand for coins.

Throw in desperate people raiding every coin container they ever possessed just to try to keep food on the table and the combination adds up to a drastic fall in coin demand.

In 2009 the Mint tried to manage the production reductions at an even pace. Except for dimes, the Mint was remarkably able to divide what work there was evenly between the Philadelphia and Denver Mints.

The only high level of demand occurred for gold and silver coinage. Demand for those coins reflect fear of inflation and/or the unknown by buyers.

This, too, has a parallel in the high mintages of gold $10s and $20s during the Depression before President Roosevelt banned gold ownership in 1933.

The 4,463,000 mintage for the gold $10 in 1932, the record for the Saint-Gaudens Indian Head series, was caused by the same type of panicky demand for gold that we are seeing with American Eagles today.

This demand also is reflected to a lesser degree in the mintages of the 1931 and 1932 $20s.

Roosevelt after banning gold ownership to end the panic, devalued the dollar and tried to induce inflation. By this action he proved the hoarder’s fears to be justified, but persistent deflation rather than inflation dogged the economy.

Are we in a period of similar paradox where fear of inflation actually produces deflation?

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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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