The question of paper versus plastic is answered every time we go to pay for a purchase. Up until this year, you can perform an Internet search and find many articles and blog postings about how the use of credit cards and electronic payment systems will make the U.S. Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing obsolete.

Many of those articles were written during allegedly good times when credit was easier to obtain with high credit lines and low monthly payments. Then we had a credit crisis caused by many things including our proclivity to take out the credit card for purchases. The credit market changed and most of us who had many credit cards are down to a few whether by choice or otherwise. Now, it appears that credit purchases are down and cash is king once again.

A new report says that while credit card payments have either stayed even, as in the case with American Express, or declines as in the case with Visa and MasterCard, the use of cash and debit cards have risen.

Consumer spending is up 2.2-percent this year with credit card transactions being down 1.2-percent. Debit card purchases is up 15-percent with the rest of the increase being cash. With the new credit card protection law allowing merchants to give a discount for using cash, small retailers have been starting to offer discounts while larger chains are discussing their next move in this area.

Are we really leading to an all-plastic economy? Both the U.S. Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are reporting higher production numbers for 2010 than they did in 2009. Discounting the striking of half-dollars and dollar coins, the U.S. Mint’s production is up almost 30-percent. Although the statistics from the BEP are not fully available, BEP Commissioner Larry Felix testified to the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology that production is up from 2009.

For those of us who collect coins or notes, whether they are modern or classic, it is good to know that the U.S. Mint and the BEP will continue to produce products to feed our collecting habit. And that is something to be thankful for heading into this holiday season.

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