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People & Culture

Farewell to the Canadian penny

  • Published Feb 03, 2013
  • Updated Apr 06, 2023
  • 854 words
  • 4 minutes
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In 1908 the Royal Canadian Mint struck its first coin, a fifty-cent piece. It was the second coin struck, however, that became the most prevalent of all Canadian change. It may have lacked the precious-metal value of the silver dollar, but the penny — officially known as the one-cent coin — assumed its supremacy-by-proportion early on. And as of today, the Royal Canadian Mint will no longer be distributing the denomination.

The one-cent coin has evolved over the past century. Once pure copper, its metal composition has been changed often, due to a flux in the value of metals. Today the standard composition is 94 percent steel, 1.5 percent nickel and 4.5 percent copper-plated zinc. Yet its appearance has remained remarkably consistent — save for the occasional change of reigning monarch on the heads-side.

The buying-power of the penny has significantly diminished since it was introduced in 1858, then produced by the British Royal Mint; thanks to inflation, it now takes about 27 cents to purchase what originally cost a single cent. To mark the passing of the penny, we’ve collected these recent stories and updates:

Pennies away, a look at how even small change has made a big difference

On February 4, 2013, The Royal Canadian Mint will no longer be minting our smallest form of currency: the penny. Though the coin will still be in circulation for years to come, it will surely be missed by collectors and currency aficionados for years to come.

Storified by Canadian Geographic· Mon, Feb 04 2013 07:47:35

The Royal Canadian Mint created and shared the following infographic on Facebook to serve as a tribute for the soon to be phased-out penny. How many pennies do you have sitting around at home? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter by tweeting @CanGeo using #CGpenny.
As a tribute to Canada’s soon to be phased-out …Facebook
Infographic: History of the PennyA one-cent story: the life and times of the Canadian penny
Major news publications in both Canada and the United States have begun tweeting about the departure of our most commonly spotted coin:
The penny’s days are numbered: Any plans to hoard the coins for something special? Tell us your story here: Globe and Mail
What do you plan on doing with your pennies? @AJinTO looks at how some Canadians are commemorating the coin
Last day for #penny distribution from #CanadianMint tomorrow
Canada is bidding farewell to its penny … sort of: Street Journal
The Canadian Currency Museum has launched an exhibit showcasing the history of the penny, bidding it farewell as the world’s most collected coin begins to be phased out of circulation. The museum is free for all who wish to visit it, and is located in Ottawa.
CENTimental Journey – 15 January to 2 July 2013 – Currency Museum – Musée de la monnaieJoin the Currency Museum as we bid a CENTimental farewell to the many years of Canadian pennydom. Our exhibit showcases important moments…
#PennyPhaseOut begins Monday – retailers are encouraged to round cash transactions up or down to the nearest 5-cents Canadian Mint
Canadian Geographic has an entire section of the Canadian Atlas Online dedicated to coinage and The Royal Canadian Mint, and we have collected some of the pieces below.
The Canadian Atlas Online
The Canadian Atlas Online
The Canadian Atlas Online
Once viewed as the most cumbersome of all Canadian coinage, the penny has endured 155 years since first being minted in the United Kingdom. Though the Mint will not be striking any pennies in the foreseeable future, the coin will live on in the hearts (and mason jars) of millions of Canadians across the country.
Follow the link below to learn how retailers will be rounding change as the penny is phased out.
Phasing out the pennyOn July 30, 2012, the Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, officially announced that the Mint will officially cease distribution…

The one-cent coin is our smallest form of currency. The Royal Canadian Mint makes 816 million pennies per annum. Desjardins Group, in 2007, estimated 20 billion pennies were in existence — translating to roughly 600 pennies for each Canadian. That is a hefty amount of coinage to take in.

Although a penny may be the first coin tossed into a wishing well, or casually dropped on the sidewalk, the coin has survived for more than a century. From walking down the street to cracking open a childhood piggy bank, one is bound to cross paths with a penny. Though the coin may soon be removed from circulation, collectors need not fret: the penny will remain a part of Canadian history for centuries to come.


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