Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Copper Stop

A proposal to scrap the penny. It's not the first. It probably won't be the last, as long as that crimson coin continues to circulate.

The mint itself is clearly not nearly as enthusiastic about the penny as they are about other coins. The only special reverse that it's ever had was in 1967, to commemorate Canada's centennial, and that was quite a while ago, long before the current binge.

I myself rarely use pennies. They might get tossed in with the tip on one of those rare occasions when I pay for my meal at a restaurant with cash and one comes with my change. Even then, it seems kind of rude. I feel like I'm just offloading an unwanted encumbrance. "Here. In exchange for your exquisite service, may I offer you the burden of carting around some copper discs that may be worth more in copper than their value as currency." Plus, I like nice round numbers, even when giving tips, and if I'm getting pennies with change, my bill wasn't round, so neither would be the tip. If I happen to have one or two of them in my pocket, they might get used to make giving change easier for a cashier. Otherwise they get tossed in a container with the rest of my change, unlikely ever to be used. So, while my change wouldn't be quite as colourful, from a practical standpoint, I wouldn't miss it much.

Australia gave up their penny in 1992. Our currency and theirs are often fairly close, relative to the US Dollar. If they can live without it, why should we be so attached? They also melted down the copper to make bronze medals for the 2000 Olympics. We've got some Olympics coming up here in a few years, of which we know the mint is aware. Perhaps, if our legislators get on it quickly enough, the mint can make a more sensible contribution to the Olympics.

If we actually went through with it, those evil people who run businesses could round up to the nearest nickel, thereby increasing their ill-gotten gains up to four cents (not four pennies, for they would be no longer) at a time. Certainly this could be cause for revolt! (Why revolt? Why wouldn't we just protest the legislation before it passes. One quote says it all: "I moved here from Canada, and they think I'm slow, eh?") Then again, before or during 1973, when our precious penny was worth what a nickel is now, there weren't pleas for the production of a 1/5th of a cent coin on the basis that those shady shopkeepers were rounding up to the nearest penny. In fact, that would have been absurd! So really, rounding up is immaterial.

Of course, in contrast to Australia, our penny does bear our national symbol, the maple leaf, which might make it tough to sell (or not to sell, as the case may be). Theirs only had the feathertail glider. Is that even a real animal? Probably not! Surely the coin must stay on this basis alone, even beyond the point at which the nickel has diminished in value so much as to warrant its abolishment!

According to the article, it's not like it would save the mint a mint, though. $30,000,000.00 is quite a lot for you and me, and even quite a lot for the Liberal Party of Canada to launder. But it's peanuts in comparison the national budget. So even the purportedly penny pinching party presently in power may not be persuaded on the premise of pecuniary prudence. If it is a good idea, it probably won't happen since, just like annexing the Turks and Caicos Islands, it's just not a priority.

Some other facts about pennies:

  • I have $2.12 in Canadian pennies. Or, better, I have 212 Canadian pennies. Giving them a dollar value is misleading, since I am unlikely ever to spend them (except perhaps to a copper depot in exchange for twice their face value). One of these pennies is a centennial penny, featuring the rock dove.
  • When I was in high school, one of my classmates would chase after pennies if someone rolled them down the hallway. This was discovered when some of my other classmates, having discovered already then that pennies were more or less worthless, would flick them at people. After people noticed this, they would bring bags of pennies to school for the sole purpose of throwing them down the hallway to watch my classmate chase them. It seems cruel now, but still I don't think he minded all that much. I think he really enjoyed the candy that he would purchase with his hard earned money.
  • In Canada, a penny was known as a copper. It is not surprising that a penny would be called, but it is surprising that only Canadians would call it that. But perhaps I am inferring too much from my source. I discovered this after I chose the title for this post, while looking for an archaic sounding phrase involving the terms "two bits" and "fortnight", neither of which have anything to do with copper or pennies, aside from the fact that 25 pennies, all of which contain at least some copper, are worth two bits.


Anonymous said...

"So even the purportedly penny pinching party presently in power may not be persuaded on the premise of pecuniary prudence."

Submit yourself to the nearest RCMP office for immediate incarceration. For some crimes there is no excuse.

Anonymous said...

If I get it right, pennies are (since 1982) mostly zinc, which is ~ half the cost of copper.

Zinc ~3.59 $/kg
penny ~ 0.0025 kg
=0.008975 $ / penny

Still, there's the not inconsiderable cost of production, I suppose, unless, by economies of scale, the penny's face value is slightly more than its cost.

Anonymous said...

"Pennies" (cents, actually) are made of copper-plated zinc only south of the border in GeorgeBushLand, eh?

But even there, the price of zinc is high enough that once you add those production costs, each cent costs Uncle Sam about 1.7 cents to mint.