Will you miss the Canadian penny?

Andrew Nichols

Andrew Nichols


A penny for your thoughts:
Monday Feb. 4, 2013 marks the official end of the run for the humble Canadian penny.
As it is slowly removed from circulation, is it an occasion for celebration or sad reflection?
With guest host Andrew Nichols.

Tell us what you think by tweeting at @CheckupCBC or participate in our on-line poll. 

Guests and Links      Mail       Download mp3 (right click and choose 'Save Target As')    


Pity the humble penny. Shunned by many in recent years, it has been left languishing in jars, in trays, on chests of drawers and considered an afterthought at most cash registers. People would not even stoop to pick it up after being carelessly ...or even deliberately ...dropped on the ground. So much for the idea of the 'lucky penny."

There was a time when a penny was not something people would cast aside or ignore. You could buy a loaf of bread with it ...and back around the time it was first minted in Canada in 1876 it was not uncommon that a-day's-work for an unskilled labourer would bring in just one-hundred pennies.

Nowadays a loaf of bread can easily cost two-hundred pennies and more. Over the last few years several studies have recommended pulling the Canadian penny ...something other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Finland to name just a few have already done. And since it cost the Canadian Mint 1.6 cents to make one cent ...that's $11-million dollars per year ...many knew the penny's days were numbered.

The government looking for more places to cut costs, zeroed in on it and decided to put an end to it. During the 2012 budget, it pulled the trigger. After roughly a hundred and fifty years of production, the penny coin is now no longer made ...but the date for removing it from circulation was delayed as retailers begged for more time.

It's not easy to simply remove the basic coin of our currency without creating a few difficulties. We will hear some of those stories today.

While the coin's days are over, the one-cent charge will still appear in commercial transactions. It will be charged on all electronic transactions ...but only at the cash register will the difference be felt. When payment is made or change given that total will be rounded up or down as much as 2 cents depending on the bill.

The echo of its, "I'm not dead yet!" may reverberate for years even as it continues to be collected and sent to banks for disposal. Retailers are not legally obligated to discontinue using it ....though eventually they will run out because the pennies will not be replenished by the banks. And as I mentioned, it's ghost will endure forever in all electronic transactions ...and in pricing of items in stores. It's only at the cash register that the finality will be felt. There will be no pennies to change hands.

What do you think?

If you are a retailer, how much preparation have you done for Monday ...and in the end is this a good move? Maybe you are a shopper who has concerns that it will add a layer of confusion to the transaction at the cash register ...we want to hear from you too.

Also, if you are a coin collector, what's it like to live through the death of a coin?

If you're one of us who simply found pennies to be a nuisance then tell us why ...and tell us what you used to do about it. Maybe you have concerns about the cultural implications such as what happens to all our expressions that involve the penny ...for example: penny for your thoughts ...or the penny dropped ...let's hear about it.

The life of the penny coin ends tomorrow. Will you be celebrating or mourning?

Our question today: "Will you miss the Canadian penny?"

I'm Andrew Nichols ...On CBC Radio One and on Sirius Satellite Radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


  • Jean-Pierre Aubry
    Economist and associate fellow CIRANO (Center for Inter-University Research and Analysis on Organizations) One of the authors of the study: Should We Stop Using the Penny? Retired monetary and public policy analyst for the Bank of Canada.

  • Karen Proud
    Vice-President, Federal Government Relations for the Retail Council of Canada

  • Monica Zurowski
    Managing editor Calgary Herald



National Post

Globe and Mail

Ottawa Citizen

Calgary Herald


As a busy summertime busker on Ottawa's Byward Market I probably won't miss the work of counting and rolling all of those copper devils, but pushing the delete on the penny is at best a cynical move and in truth more of a bully's ploy at the end of the day. And pennies are made out to seem expensive? I have in my purse at this moment a penny from 1971, still functional, still shiny. And don't tell me that there is no way to make a cheaper penny.

Even at 1.6 cents to make that's .04 cents per year, and the coin is still quite functional.
Finally, we can't afford to make pennies, but we can afford to redesign the quarter whenever the wind blows differently?

Orleans, Ontario

I will miss the penny! As a copper enamel artist, I am bidding adieu to the lowly coin with the creation of a penny ensemble, made with 1800 pennies. A 1960s mini meets Roman Warrior with a bit of Victorian era thrown in with a bustle and train. The ensemble will be part of the Wearable Art Show at Market Hall in Peterborough this Saturday February 9th.

Peterborough, Ontario

The move should have been to round all transactions as is done in New Zealand. Harder to do here where the GST is added at the till rather than included in the price on the price tag. In NZ, you know when you pick up an item that it will be $9.80 + .49 GST = 10.29 before you get to the till where it is automatically rounded up to 10.30, regardless of how you pay for it. All transactions are rounded for all types of payment.

Here we will have to figure it all out when the payment comes in cash only and it will not be done automatically by the till. There will be challenges in making deposits and balancing the float and giving receipts in many commercial establishments..
Calgary, Alberta


Personally, I feel indifferent to the loss of our penny. As an economy grows, demands change for currency and we must react to those changes. A penny doesn't hold much value these days, and is expensive to make so it seems logical to no longer use this coin.
What I would like to see happen is more of our fifty cent Canadian coin in circulation. It is a beautiful coin, has a use in today's economy, and is still produced. It is sad that the only way to acquire this underused coin is by ordering them through the post office. It would be great to see the Canadian Mint get this coin out in the public again.

Invermere, British Columbia

I found an excellent use for the penny as a cleaning implement. I discovered that you can use a penny to scrape the black which occurs on a motorcycle tailpipe from your boots without scratching the chrome. I'll be keeping at least one penny safely stored in my saddlebags.

Ottawa, Ontario

I can understand the Mint not producing any more pennies because of the costs. I don't understand the immediate need to start withdrawing the penny from circulation and eliminating its use. Why not just let them slide into extinction as they all disappear into jars, or actually continue as they are released back into circulation?

St. Mary's, Ontario

I moved to Toronto from Vancouver in 1985. The moving company charged me based on the weight of my cargo, times the miles between there and here. I was in my mid twenties and until then I had been simply taking pennies out of my pocket and putting them in a jar and the end of a shopping trip. When it came time to pack the jar I wondered if it would cost more to ship the jar than it was worth. But I could not bring myself to leave the jar behind.

Once I got to Toronto I developed the habit of using pennies (to the delight of most cashiers) rather than collecting them. It took two and a half years to go through what I think was $25 worth.

Today I have exactly one penny in my change purse. I think I'll keep it.

Toronto, Ontario


What baffles and concerns me about the demise of the penny is the cavalier acceptance of the inflation that drives the worth of our money down. How robust can a system be that sows its own demise? A monetary scheme is the backbone of a country's economy; what is the fatal flaw in ours that authors its continual decline? And should we be addressing that issue, rather than just ditching the penny (then the nickel, then the quarter, etc.)?

Tofino, British Columbia

I haven't heard any discussion on the effect on accounting for small businesses. When it comes to paying the HST, how will the non-collection of tw cents on many small sales affect the amount paid to the government?

Convenience stores that do hundreds of small transactions in a day will be greatly affected either by the cost of accounting sytems or the inablility to make the till balance at the end of each shift. Governments never consider the really small businesses when changing sales taxes or, now, the end of the penny.

Gravenhurst, Ontario

A favourite activity with my grandchildren is playing Rumoli with pennies. They all learned at a young age to play Rumoli using pennies and there are containers of pennies belonging to each child at my house, ready for a game when they come to visit.

Now an increase to playing with nickels is a substantial increase, in fact not something I would do. So the demise of the penny means we either give up 'our gambling habit' or we hoard sufficient to enable us to continue on. In fact, we will probably do that and will have enough to last them through to adulthood. But, alas, they will not be able to play this fun game with their children for just pennies - a loss of many hours of fun and family time. Did the decision-makers consider this loss?

Brookfield, Nova Scotia


I will miss the penny. It is a visually wonderfully coin. The penny is lovely - it can be bright and shiny or a rich dark colour. I hate what they have done with the new loonie - it is an awful colour; cheap and kitschy looking to me - like chocolate coins.

Aesthetics in everyday life is important to me. I wish our governments felt the same. Perhaps not a very important argument compared to the problems we face in the world but it is the little things that help me feel good each day.

Newmarket, Ontario


Talk about a lot of pennies!  We held a penny drive at my daughters' school: Parkside Elementary School in Summerside P.E.I., to raise money for our new playground. We raised $1622.41 all in pennies! Of course, it didn't occur to us how many pennies would come in and how long it would take us to roll them. A few of us rolled them all by hand. It took many, many hours but it was a lot of fun! 162200 pennies! Now that's a lot of pennies all in one place!

Summerside, Prince Edward Island

Comments are closed.