Cash is Still King

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.

A Week of Coin Finds

I apologize to my readers for the extended silence. It has been an interesting two weeks. Now that it is over, I can go back to searching the numismatic world for interesting stories.

Well… I have not exactly been silent. Those following me on Twitter (@coinsblog) have seen a some stories of interest—other than the flurry of posts from the US Mint’s broken RSS feed. I tweeted about the following articles:

In other personal news, I found two 2009-D dimes in change. Considering where I was, I suspect that the dimes could have arrived in the area from a visitor to celebrate Independence Day. I also found a few S-mint cents from the late 1960s which might have also arrived in the pocket of a visitor.

While making a purchase in the suburbs, I was given a 2002 Canadian quarter and a 1964-D Washington Quarter. It was clear that the cashier did not know what she was giving me, but offered to buy them back. I explained to the cashier the difference between modern quarters and those minted before 1965. As I was leaving, she was going through the draw dropping quarters on the counter listening for that distinctive “ping” of a silver coin.

The next day I was buying supplies for my dogs when the clerk questioned one of the notes I handed for payment. When I looked at the note I noticed it was a Series 1957A Silver Certificate with a blue seal. It was a worn note that I might have received in change but did not pay enough attention to notice. I was asked how much it was worth and I thought it would be about $2 in its condition. Rather than keeping the silver certificate, I sold it to the clerk to $1 who could not believe how cool it was. Before taking the dog’s treats home, I told him where he could buy a sleeve to better save his new find. Who knows… I could have piqued the interest of a new currency collector.

At work we have a finicky soda machine. It will take paper dollars only if smooth and inserted in one direction. Rather than fight the machine, I have been using Presidential Dollar coins purchased by the roll from a local bank. While a coworker was having problems with his note, I traded his note for a coin to find it worked without issue. After doing this a few times, I convinced some to purchase their own rolls of Presidential Dollars. It may not increase the circulation of dollar coins by much, but it is a start!

Found DC in VA

I finally found a DC quarter in the DC area. I am working on a new project in Alexandria, Virginia and stopped by a local grocery store after work. Before shopping, I stopped by the in-store coffee stand for a warm beverage where I was handed a DC quarter in change. Although I was able to purchase these quarters at the US Mint headquarters building, this is the first one I found in change.

Almost a year after their issue, I am beginning to see 2009 quarters and the Lincoln Bicentennial Cents in circulation. I have yet to find 2009 nickels and dimes in change. With a production of 84.64 million nickels and 146 million dimes are the lowest mintage totals since the 1950s.

The US Mint’s Annual Report says that production of circulating coinage was down 70-percent and it is not anticipated that their primary customer, the Federal Reserve, would increase their purchasing of new coins. It might be more difficult to find 2009 and 2010 coins in pocket change.

Well… It Was Shiny

Continue to search through my change looking for 2009 coins. Since leaving Charlotte, I have not been able to find another 2009 coin.

When I go to a store, I become a little excited as the cashier hands me shiny coins. If I cannot take a quick glance, which is becoming more difficult as my eyes are showing their age, I put the coins in my pocket and check when I get home.

Earlier this week I went to a local grocery store and paid with cash. I noticed the shiny copper coin that was dropped into my hand. I looked at the coin with excitement and thought I saw a Log Cabin Lincoln Cent. But there was a line and I was in a hurry to go home.

Later that evening I emptied my pocket and found the coin. Rather than seeing a log cabin it was coat of arms. A closer look was that it said “Commonwealth of the Bahamas” with the year of 2004. The reverse of the coin has star fish and the denomination of “1 Cent.”

According to The National Bank of the Bahamas, the coin is 19.05 mm in diameter and 1.58 mm thick. The Lincoln Cent is also 19.05 mm in diameter but only 1.55 mm thick. Both coins are made from copper-plated zinc.

The Central Bank of the Bahamas ties its currency to the US Dollar making it an even exchange between the currencies. In this case, a cent is worth one cent and I broke even.

Even though it was nice to find a Bahamian coin in pocket change, I am still waiting to find my first 2009 quarter, nickel, and dime.

This Week In Pocket Change

At the end of the day, I empty the change from my pockets and put it on top of my dresser. Every Saturday, I search through that change to see if there was anything interesting. This week there seem to be quite a few fun finds:

• Bicentennial Quarter
• 1946 Jefferson Nickel
• 1945 & 1952 Lincoln Wheat Back Cents
• 1978 Canadian Quarter
• 1979 Canadian Cent

While none of the coins are worth much, it is still fun to find different coins in pocket change. They will go into my found coins bank with the others that I have found.

Looking back, I never showed off my found coins bank. It was from a gift by my wife (then girl friend). The bank is a solid oak box with the door of an old post office box on the front. The box was made by R.P. & Company who purchased the doors from the Postal Service, refurbished them, and made them into banks. My bank is their Flying Eagle brass model, circa 1906. The bank has a few wheat cents, older nickels, Bicentennial quarters, a few foreign coins, and a $2 bill I received in change a few years ago.

I wonder if anyone else even keeps their found coins or has a “found coins bank.” Let me know.

Giving Makes Common Cents

I wanted to get a quick note out that I am still alive. I spent the past week in New York City, my home town, going to a conference with others in the information security field. It was a good conference and worth the time traveling “home” to attend. Unfortunately, I did not find anything more exciting than a 1956 Lincoln Cent in my change.

Before I run off to dinner with my wife, I wanted to encourage you to give this gift of charity this holiday season. I received a note that the official charity of the Coin Collector’s Blog, Common Cents, is $3,420 away from its 2008 campaign goal. Here is the note I received from Teddy Gross, the Executive Director of Common Cents:

Dear Friend,

I recently sent a letter asking for a year-end donation to help Common Cents reach more children, more schools and more communities with the Penny Harvest program. I wanted to express my heartfelt thanks, on behalf of the children and schools we serve, to all of you who have responded.

As of today, we are just $3,420 away from realizing our 2008 campaign goal. If you haven’t had a chance to donate yet, would you consider making a gift today?

The Penny Harvest helps students understand their capacities for leadership by gathering pennies, making grants and taking action to fight for causes they believe in. Seventeen years of experience has shown that, when given the opportunity to help others through the Penny Harvest, children transform into leaders working to solve – not cause – community problems.

We urgently need your help to continue providing the curriculum, tools, training and support needed for every school. Your gift will help us provide meaningful and life changing opportunities for thousands of children. Please donate today. As we teach through the Penny Harvest, every amount helps.

Many thanks, and best wishes for a wonderful holiday,

Teddy Gross
Executive Director
Common Cents

Click on any link in Teddy’s letter or the banner in the top right corner of the page, it will send you directly to the donation page at

Although I am a little later in doing so, I will go to the bank this week with the pitcher of change on my desk as I promised. The sum of that money will go to Common Cents. That pitcher is half-full. I hope it has at least $100! Please join me and give what you can! Thank you.

Official Charity Makes Common Cents

Charity is good for the soul!

Charity supported by children is not only good for the soul but a sign of a positive future for this nation.

Common Cents is an educational, not-for-profit organization that specializes in creating service-learning programs for young people. Their best known program is the Penny Harvest, the largest children supported philanthropy program in the United States.

This year, over 1,000 schools with nearly 500,000 student will be searching for idle pennies in their homes, from their family, and in their neighborhoods. They will take all of those pennies, the ones that people claim have “no value” and put them to work. This year’s collection ends on Thanksgiving.

After collected, every penny collected will be used to make grants to non-profit organizations of the student’s choice. Issues that concern the students are Infant/Children/Youth in need, Global Relief, Healthcare, Families in Need, Environmental, and more! Thousands of dollars are collected by good students for good work.

Last year, the Penny Harvest raised $677,955.99 for charities. That is over 67 million pennies! Who said pennies are not worth anything!

For this reason, Common Cents has been made the Official Charity of the Coin Collector’s Blog.

On my dresser is a pitcher that I put the coins that are in my pocket in at the end of the day. During Thanksgiving weekend, I will take that pitcher to a bank and dump its contents in their coin counting machine. Whatever the machine says is in that pitcher will be donated to Common Cents for this year’s Penny Harvest.

I ask that my readers click on the banner on the upper-right of this page and give directly to Common Cents and support the Penny Harvest.

Charity is good for the soul!

Does Plastic Trump Coins?

During the year, there have been a few articles written speculating why the number of circulating coins have decreased. On article said that the “bank hates your coins” and looks to deter you from cashing them in. Another article presented the case for credit cards and other means of electronic transactions that is cutting into coin production.

Both articles present a case for the lower demand for coins as being the reason for these acts. While the demand for coins may be down and the Mint’s production is also down, both articles do not take into consideration the inventory and movement of coin inventory by the Federal Reserve.

How the Federal Reserve manages inventory has been the subject of investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In the report published in March 2008, the GAO found that while the various Federal Reserve branches have been able to meet the demand for coins to enter commerce, the GAO questions whether the Federal Reserve properly manages its inventory.

One suggestion that the GAO acknowledges that the decline in coin production may be a result of the mismanagement of inventory by the Federal Reserve when they wrote that the “data from one major coin recycling company, the value of coins returned to circulation through recycling grew from approximately $1 billion in 2000 to $2.6 billion in 2006.” With more coins in circulation, the need for new coins to meet demand may be lowered.

Further, as part of inventory management, it was acknowledge that the Federal Reserve banks “look for opportunities to transfer coins within their district to meet projected demand. For example, one Reserve Bank office may want additional coins, while another office may have more coins than it wants to hold to meet short-term demand. The Reserve Bank office works with the coin terminal operators to move the coins as needed.” This will reduce the need to order new coins from the US Mint.

The reports finds that the Federal Reserve does not grasp the concept of an optimal inventory with some coin terminals having lower supply than others. Even with inventory goals, the Federal Reserve does not properly manage to those goals leaving inventories in a state of flux. The report even suggests that the spike in coin production in 2001 was not a result of better economic times, but a mismanagement in ordering for circulated coins and overstating the demand for the 50 State Quarter program. This was alluded to in industry publications.

There have been anecdotal reports saying that bright early date 50 State Quarters are being found in circulation. This could be from people who bought rolls and put them back into circulation with the down economy and the Federal Reserve clearing out the back of the coin storage rooms. Additionally, companies like Coinstar has announced higher earnings based on increased usage of their machines, which places more coins back into circulation.

And none of this considers the effect on the production of currency.

With more money in circulation and the mismanagement of inventory by the Federal Reserve, concluding that the reduction in production by the US Mint because of the increased use of credit cards is questionable. It may be one factor, but not the single reason.

Pick Up That Penny

I like hunting for coins in change. But it has been since early June since my last find. Maybe instead of looking in my pocket, I should look at the ground. I was pointed to a story about two different people who hunt for change on the ground. They never pass any coin lying by itself waiting to be picked up.

One profile was the Humphrey family from Staten Island, New York who catalogs their finds on their blog, The Changepot. They post little snippets about their finds including what they were doing at the time. As I write this, the blog reports that they have found $383.65 in 2008 and $1,039.89 since 2005.

Scott Caulfield hunts for lost change in St. Louis, Missouri. According to his blog, Thoughts from the Change Race, Scott started as a race against a friend. At this time, he writes about his finds which now totals $275.55.

Sally Herships, who reports on the story, wrote about her “research” into the story on SoHoSally’s Blog. In 18 days Sally found 27-cents. I am surprised she did not find more in SoHo, a great neighborhood in New York City.

Caulfield, the Humphrey family, and the good people at Common Cents shows that “it’s just a penny” is worth being picked up. I may have to start looking down as I go through my day!

Pocket Change Is Still Fun

Many collectors are cherrypickers. We search change, dealer junk boxes, and other places for bargains. Then there are those hardcore cherrypickers who look for slight errors, die varieties, and other subtle features missed by the casual onlooker. I am not a hardcore cherrypicker. But I do search pocket change to see what I find.

After returning home from dealing with family business, my wife left a sandwich bag full of change and later told me she needed soda money. That means pick out the quarters, see if there is anything interesting, and fill up the quarter tube so she can buy her daily Coca-Cola. I started picking out the quarters and one caught my eye. It was worn but it had a distinct color. I dropped the coins on the desk and heard a distinct “ting.” It was the sound of days gone by. It was the sound of a silver quarter!

Somewhere, my wife received a 1964 Washington Quarter in change. If I was to have it grade, it would probably be slabbed in Extra Fine condition. There is some slight luster and it shows the signs of once being in someone’s collection. According to, the coin is worth about $2.85 in metals (as I type this), which is probably more than its numismatic value. But that does not matter… it was fun to find!!

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