Officials at the US Mint have spotted a sign they say is indicative of an improving economy — coin shipments are increasing.

US Mint Deputy Director Richard Peterson said that when the economy crashed, “People went into their piggy banks and their coin jars and spent those coins. [They] flowed back into the banks and then ultimately back to the Federal Reserve.”

That meant new coin production from the Mint stopped for awhile. But last year, coin shipments from the mint increased by 37 percent, a sign fewer people need to dig around for dimes and nickels to make ends meet.

But while that’s good news for the economy, it means less revenue for the mint. It costs two cents to make a penny and 10 cents to make a nickel, so producing more of those coins isn’t necessarily good for the mint’s balance sheets.

But it makes up for those losses elsewhere. Gold and silver coins were popular with Americans who saw the precious metals as a stable investment — more than 45 million ounces of them were sold in 2011, which represented a record spike of about 30 percent, making such coins the largest source of revenue for the mint in 2011.

Overall, the US Mint still plans to be in the black this year, with any profit going toward paying down the national debt.

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