Opinion

Penny for your thoughts on losing our little copper coin

Say goodbye to the penny. It is being taken out of circulation next month, a victim of inflation.

Whether you feel sad in a sentimental way to see the coin go, or happy that you won’t have to carry round that dead weight that just ends up cluttering your dresser, the truth is, the penny has no monetary value anymore.

If you see a penny on the ground, do you even stop to pick it up anymore? If not then that is a sure enough sign that it has no perceived value these days.

The last penny was pressed at The Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg in May last year, ending 150 years of production, and tradition.

The penny was introduced in 1858 and was designed to serve as a unit of measurement for Canadian traders and merchants—one penny was exactly one-inch wide, and 100 coins equaled one pound in weight. Its modern, slimmed-down version was introduced in 1920, after the price of copper sharply rose. It was also designed to mimic the size and shape of the penny in the U.S., Canada's increasingly important economic partner at the time. Only about 4.5 per cent of recently issued pennies are actually copper, the rest steel.

The decision to get rid of the penny, of course, came down to production costs.

A penny costs about 1.6 cents to make, and its elimination will save the government more than $11 million a year.

The Mint has started recovering rolls of pennies from banks. The coins will be melted down and the metal sold off.

Canada joins a number of countries that have eliminated their one-cent coin including Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand.

Penny boosters say the loss of the coin could lead to inflation, saying retailers will be inclined to mark up by five cents, instead of just one. But the experience in those other countries that have dropped low-denomination coins suggests that rounding will be fair and there will be very little impact on inflation.

As for those jars, boxes and bags of pennies sitting in countless drawers across the country, how about putting them to good use? Drop them in at Elk Valley banks and they will go to charity.

The disappearing penny will likely have little economic impact, but it may require some cultural adjustments.

Penny candy? A relic of the past. The penny arcade? Already gone.

And some old adages will likely fade away, too.

What are people going to pinch?

Will thoughts now cost a nickel?

See a penny? Leave it.

Penny-wise? Just foolish.

Take care of the nickels and the dollars will take care of themselves?

A penny saved is ... not much.

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