Contempt for copper

I hate the penny.

I hate the way it clutters up the change pocket in my wallet, dozens of little copper coins taunting me while I push past them in search of that toonie or loonie I’ll never find. No, all that I find is more pennies — and I find them everywhere. They make their way into the bottom of my purse, the pockets of jackets, under my computer keyboard and couch cushions, just to name a few. It drives me crazy. I’m left with an assortment of coffee mugs, jars and jewelry boxes filled with an overabundance of pennies — annoying, germy, useless pennies. I don’t like you penny and I don’t need you.

I’m not the only one who doesn’t like the penny. Both Australia and New Zealand agree that life is much better without the penny, having rid themselves of their own one-cent coins several years ago.

“The one and two-cent coins had lost their value and no longer had any effective purchasing power,” explained Alan Boaden, head of New Zealand’s Reserve Bank currency department, as reported by He said that the coins had become more costly to produce than they were worth.

Other countries that have put to rest their lowest denominations of currency include Britain, Israel, Sweden, Norway and Demark. If they can do it, I say so should we.

The penny had a time and a place, back when you could actually buy goods with it. As it stands, the penny has lost 98 per cent of its purchasing power since it was introduced in 1908.
And if you try to buy something with your many pennies, you might be surprised to find out that anyone involved in a transaction with you is not legally obliged to accept the payment of more than 25 cents in pennies. No one wants your pennies. And why would they? It’s not as if they could use them to buy something.

Funny enough, you couldn’t even buy a penny with a penny. No, these days a penny costs 1.5 cents to produce.

If you want to turn your one-cent coinage into something more useful, you’ll have to roll up 50 of them — and you’ll only get two quarters in return. It seems hardly worth it to me.

In fact, a 2007 Wilfred Laurier University study found that this bothersome coin costs the Canadian economy more than $100 million a year in lost productivity as people spend time rolling pennies, counting pennies or waiting in line while other people count them.

When the penny isn’t causing lost productivity it is being hoarded, thrown away or lost to couch cushions. It is because of reasons like these that the Royal Canadian Mint has to make 500 million new ones a year, even though there are about 30 billion already in circulation.
I don’t think I’m the only one who has accidentally dropped a handful of change on the ground, only to pick up all the dimes and quarters, leaving the pennies behind. What about when the cashier gives you your change at the store? I know that I will pass on the pennies, opting to leave them in the “Take a Penny” jar on the counter rather than put them in my wallet.

It seems retailers have also had enough of the penny, as seen in a 2007 survey released by the Royal Canadian Mint. It shows that 63 per cent of small retailers said they were in favour of kicking the penny to the curb, efficiency cited as their primary reason.

As reported by CBC News, Marco Thorn, who owns a hockey merchandise store in Charlottetown, said he would be glad to see the penny go.

“In business saving time is money,” said Thorn. “There’s always a surplus of pennies at the cash register; somebody has to roll them and that takes time, and I really don’t see a need for the pennies.”

Of course, not everyone would be happy to see the penny go. Only 42 per cent of consumers would support being rid of the penny. Thirty-three per cent said they would like to see it stick around a little longer, calling it a part of Canadian heritage. Those who want to keep the penny are also concerned that prices will increase if the penny is decommissioned.

For those who want to keep the penny for it’s nostalgic value, I simply sigh and shake my head. There is nothing romantic about the countless pennies relegated to couch cushions and floors of public bathrooms. For someone who hates the penny, even I think it deserves better than that.

Those who are concerned with increased prices, the Bank of Canada has said there is no need to worry. Rounding up or down to the nearest nickel would only apply to the final sale price and apply only to cash purchases.

What’s even more reassuring is that this wouldn’t affect credit card and debt transactions because the penny doesn’t physically exist in these transactions anyways.

The standing Senate committee on national finance announced in April 2010 that it would begin a study on the costs and benefits of the penny, which includes the possibility of eliminating the coin. The committee is expected to report its findings to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty within the coming months.

Penny, you have been warned. Your days are numbered. I for one won’t miss you.