Friday, March 30, 2012

It’s Official, Canada Is Penniless!


Canada’s Minister of Finance announced today that by the end of 2012, Canada will be penniless! Yes, the lowly penny will cease to be manufactured or distributed. Those of us with jars full of them in the closet will be able to use them indefinitely but we will not be able to get new ones. A penny costs 1.6 cents to manufacture and they produce 25 of them for every Canadian every year. Canada says they are loosing $11 million a year by stamping these things out and that is why they are stamping them out (?).

Pennies used to be made of real copper but in 2000 when copper prices rose, they switched to copper plated zinc and then in 2005 to copper plated steel. They are no longer worth their weight in copper! We may have the advantage here. A friend of ours gave our son several bank bags of pennies when he was born back in 1970. He told us to leave them in the sealed bags and they would buy him a car one day. Well, maybe a tire… At least these pre 2000 pennies are real copper so maybe they will buy two tires!

You can’t buy much, if anything for a penny. Not even a thought. Few of my thoughts are worth a penny with the possible exception of this one. I would price it out at $.02, which would then be subjected to the “Swedish Rounding Rule” which dictates that 1 and 2 (or 6 and 7) cents are rounded down and 3 and 4 (or 8 and 9) cents are rounded up. That would make this thought worth nothing. Maybe I should price it at $.03 in which case you would have to pay me a nickel for it!

Electronic payments (credit and debit cards) will still be to the nearest penny so this change will only affect cash purchases and who uses cash anymore? Those lucky people with a hidden supply of pennies will have to dispense them with care. If your lunch costs say, $6.72, you would never admit that you have pennies thereby forcing McDonalds to reduce the price to $6.70. However, if your lunch comes to $6.73 then we would quickly pull out our three pennies to prevent being boosted up to the next nickel. Be careful out there and keep those pennies close to your vest! Constant vigilance and a quick mathematical mind is required!

I remember when you could buy something for a penny. I remember in the late 40’s and early 50’s my mother would give me a penny or two to go to our neighborhood store. There were huge selections of items for a penny, well maybe not huge selections, but quite a few anyway. I actually remember something that was three for a penny! Whatever they were, I did not like them. Remember Jaw Breakers? They were a penny and while they didn’t actually break your jaw, they did stain your lips and tongue. There were little wax things that squirted a blast of foul tasting liquid into your mouth when you bit down on them. They were not worth the penny they cost and the memory of them still makes me cringe. Maybe they were the three for a penny things. The dilemma was always what to do with the wax mess after you bit down on it. Swallow it or spit it out?

Canada is not the first country to do this. Even Mexico stopped using the centavo years ago. The smallest coin normally used down here is the peso, worth about seven cents. You do see the odd 50 centavo coins, worth half a peso and I once found a 10 centavo coin on the ground. It is tiny, not much more than a quarter of an inch across and silver colored. Most of the Scandinavian countries did this long ago but they have always been far advanced over us anyway. They even invented the “Swedish Rounding Rule”! Australia threw out it’s one and two penny coins and New Zealand broke ground by eliminating the nickel in 2009!

So no more sayings like, “A penny for your thoughts”, “Penny wise, pound foolish” or, “Mind your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves”. Canada is now penniless!


  1. At Walmart someplace in Mexico I actually received a 10 centavo coin (Just under a penny or $0.008 US) and a 20 centavo coin (a cent and a half or so). Some companies must have precision and a lot of the fruits and vegetables and such seem still to be priced to the centavo, but it gets rounded as you say.

  2. We still have pennies in the Euro zone, but the Netherlands did away with the use of the Euro penny in 08. They round up or down. It seems to work out. Only thing was, if you travelled to another country and forgot you had pennies, sometimes the clerks would look at you funny when you tried to unload one or two.
    I'm sure there will be a few Canadians who will still try to use them after next fall. Should be fun to watch.
    And, it's about time. This has been talked about for quite some time.

  3. Funny you should mention that Mike. I just went to the local HEB grocery store here in Saltillo and I actually got a ten centavo coin in my change as well.

    The bill was $179.75 pesos. I gave her $200 and my change was 20.10 instead of 20.25 I was entitled to. I lost out in the rounding process.

    The ten centavos joined two more pesos and went to the bagger who work for tips.

  4. It is very common here to see 10,20 and 50 centavo coins. The 10, and 20 centavos usually go to the redondo at the check out; but I still end up with lots of them. These I save and put in a bag for when the Red Cross does their neighbourhood fund raising collections a couple of times a year. They usually add up to quite a bit by then.
    50 centavo coins are used lots here. The adult bus fare is 5.50 so they are a hot commodity.

  5. You guys up in Canada are just too wealthy! Here's where they are covering the highway with loonies and toonies.

  6. I guess penny carnival's will have to be nickel carnivals!