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Cent on Way Out?
March 04, 2008

With the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln occurring next year and the 100th anniversary mark being attained by the Lincoln cent, there is a lot of talk going on in hobby circles about the lowest current U.S. coin denomination.

Its future is rather bleak. Inflation is killing it, aided by changing purchasing habits of Americans. It is far easier to swipe a credit or debit card through the reader and give an electronic signature than it is to count out cash and wait for change. Using cards also eliminates many trips to the bank or ATM to replenish cash walking around money.

Since the peak production at the height of the last economic boom in the year 2000, cent production has not ever returned to the approximately 14 billion that were struck in that year.

In fact, last year's production of roughly 7.4 billion cents had actually fallen from the approximately 8.2 billion of the year before.

Part of this can be attributed to the slowing economy, but not all of it. In prior cycles, coinage peaks in one cycle were regularly exceeded in the following cycle. Not this time.

Americans may be voluntarily abandoning the denomination. Such a death by natural causes is far preferable to political murder. As the Treasury secretary found out Friday when he told a radio program that his personal opinion was he would like to get rid of the cent.

The usual howls went up even as he told the same interviewer that it wasn't politically doable.

Why raise the issue at all? Good question. What do you think?

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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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