Canada Penny Getting Retired

According to Canada’s recently-released 2012 federal budget plan, the Royal Canadian Mint will stop making new pennies in 2012. The penny will remain legal tender (in other words you can still spend your pennies), but no more new pennies will be made. This means that pennies will slowly disappear as they are lost, tossed, returned to banks, or added to people’s collections.

The Canadian Ministry of Finance’s reasons for eliminating the penny include:

  • It costs the Canadian government 1.6 cents to make each penny, costing Canadian taxpayers around $11 million per year
  • The buying power of a penny continues to decline – they are useless on their own, and are only used to make change for cash purchases

Canada will join countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain in removing their lowest-denomination coins. Australia stopped making 1- and 2-cent coins in 1992. New Zealand stopped making 1- and 2-cent coins in 1987, and the 5-cent coin in 2004. Great Britain stopped issuing its half-penny coin in 1984.

Canadian pennies from 1962 through 2005

The Canadian penny, pictured to the right, features a picture of the Queen on the front and a pair of maple leaves on the back. The design remains largely unchanged since 1937, other than changes to who was pictured on the front (starting with King George VI in 1937, then switching to Queen Elizabeth II in 1953) and updated portraits of Queen Elizabeth over the years.

There are similar arguments for getting rid of the penny in the United States. Pennies are expensive to make, can’t buy anything, and are largely unused by the American public. I know many people who simply throw pennies away if they receive them as change. Even so, Americans seem fairly nostalgic about their pennies, and government discussions about getting rid of them have so far gone nowhere. Dollar coins, on the other hand, have never taken off in the United States, despite repeated efforts to introduce them to American circulation.

The loss of any coin from circulation is a blow to world coin collectors everywhere. But that loss is part of what makes world coin collecting interesting – designs change, new coins come into existence, and some coins (and even countries) disappear. The Canadian penny isn’t going to completely disappear any time soon – with more than 9,000,000,000 (yes, 9 billion) pennies minted in the last 10 years, there are still plenty out there to find. But this may be the last year to get a Canadian Proof Set that includes the iconic copper-colored penny.