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What a Popular Topic
April 29, 2008

Any time I write about cents, the level of interest seems to rise. I don't believe I am particularly clever, but it is a topic that resonates in America at the moment.

I asked last week if the American people were quietly abolishing the cent by not using it and pointed to plunging mintage figures to illustrate the point.

Comments were posted. I appreciate comments. This time it truly is different for the cent.

In the past, the mintage totals would rise to peaks the coincided with economic high points and then fall. What makes this cycle different is that in prior cycles each high point was basically higher than the prior one. This time the high point was hardly more than half the prior one.

Something is going on. It is worth paying attention to. Sometimes people really do change their habits.

It happened before with the half dollar. The half dollar turned from a useful everyday coin into a commemorative to be saved and reverenced in 1964 when the Kennedy half was introduced.

Rising silver prices and changing alloys did not help, but Americans got out of the habit of using the coin. Now it languishes almost in the same land of the undead as the Sacagawea dollar that I wrote about yesterday.

Are Americans changing their coin using habits again to the exclusion of the cent? Could be.

As one person e-mailed me, all denominations below the quarter should be abolished and even the Internal Revenue Service rounds everything to the nearest dollar.

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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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