A Nickel of My Thoughts on the Death of the Penny

The Death of the Penny

On February 4, the Royal Canadian Mint and financial institutions across Canada stopped distributing the Canadian one-cent piece. Production on the penny had ceased in May of 2012 looking forward to February 2013 when the penny would no longer be sent out to clink around in the pockets of Canadians. On that same day in February, the Canadian Mint began melting down the first of the 35 billion pennies in circulation.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty shows the last penny produced in Canada. (Keep an eye on Ebay).

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty shows the last penny produced in Canada. (Keep an eye on Ebay).

One-Cent Worth of Patriotism

All Canadian coins minted between Confederation (1867) and 1935 have included the proud maple leaf but the penny has always shown it like no other. The first penny was produced on January 2, 1908 and was struck by Countess Grey at the official opening of the Ottawa branch of the Royal Mint (renamed in 1931 to the Royal Canadian Mint). The modern 1-cent coin that features two maple leaves on the same twig was designed and created by G.E. Kruger Gray. It was first used in 1937 and has remained unchanged until 2013 with the exception of the 1967 centennial coin, which used a rock dove, designed by renowned Canadian artist Alex Colville.

1967-Centennial-Penny

The 1967 Centennial Penny

It Costs to Save Pennies

The beloved and seemingly pointless one-cent coin costs Canada 1.6 cents to produce and therefore the mint will melt down the 82-million kg of steel, nickel and copper-plating that remains in circulation and selling it.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is indeed correct to say that eliminating the penny will save Canadian tax-payers but his estimated 11 million dollars savings per year in production costs will actually result in a less impressive but still worthy $4 million savings. The cost to redeem the 6 billion coins will cost the Canadian government about $80 million over the next 6 years. The $80 million expense is a result of about $53 million to redeem the face-value of the 6 billion pennies jangling about in people’s pockets, and an impressive $27 million in administration, handling, and little signs that will be placed on fountains throughout Canada informing romantics that wishes now cost a nickel or higher.

Toronto's Mayor, Lord Ford at Edmonton's City Hall. On an earlier trip, Ford had become enamoured with Edmonton's Skating Rink by Winter, Wading Pool Fountain in the Summer. Ford visited his favourite versatile fountain with a little present. Even with tight security, Ford was overheard whispering to the fountain, "join me and we can rule the fountains."

Toronto’s Mayor, Lord Ford at Edmonton’s City Hall. On an earlier trip, Ford had become enamoured with Edmonton’s Skating Rink by Winter, Wading Pool Fountain in the Summer. Ford visited his favourite versatile fountain with a little present. Even with tight security, Ford was overheard whispering to the fountain, “join me and we can rule the fountains.”

Recycling the zinc and copper from melted-down pennies will bring in about $42.5 million in revenue. That, and the additional savings of $11 million per year, Canada will walk away with a savings of about $4 million per year over the 6 years it is expected to collect most of the circulating pennies.

A Pretty Penny

It will be great to save all that money in producing the penny but perhaps the Canadian government is missing an opportunity to make a little extra.

When King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, the Mint was just finishing up the tools to produce the new 1937 penny with the new king’s portrait. While the 1936 penny still had the image of King Henry V, the 1937 penny recycled the 1936 penny die along with a new portrait of the abdicating king’s on the reverse. To differentiate between the 1936 and 1937 pennies, the mint included a dot below the 1936 date to mark it as the 1937 penny.

The 1937 Penny. CanadianCultureThing is accepting any of these useless, cumbersome hunks of junk...email me...2 cents a piece guaranteed!

The 1937 Penny. CanadianCultureThing is accepting any of these useless, cumbersome hunks of junk…email me…2 cents a piece guaranteed!

This of course makes this penny quite rare, there are only seven known rare dot coin specimens known to exist, as all other specimens are believed to have been melted by the mint. It might be worthwhile for the Mint to hire some students to pick through the pennies they collect and pull out any rare ones. I’m not a coin collector but being a comic book collector, it would horrify me to know that Marvel was collecting any comics they found and were recycling them. The idea that they would destroy an Avengers #4 amongst a heap of Alpha Flights sends me into a tizzy.

CanadianCultureThing postcard #0018 features Liberty Magazine from December 1959. The Duke of Windsor was a title created for Edward once he abdicated the throne. This issue of Liberty also featured an ongoing concern that Canadians were facing in late 1959 - a dollar valued higher than the U.S. Canadian businesses that relied heavily on American patronage we forced to take the greenback at par and sometimes even sweeten the deal with incentives.

CanadianCultureThing postcard #0018 features Liberty Magazine from December 1959. The Duke of Windsor was a title created for Edward once he abdicated the throne. This issue of Liberty also featured coverage of an ongoing concern faced by Canadians in late 1959 – a dollar valued higher than the U.S! Canadian businesses that relied heavily on American patronage were forced to take the greenback at par and sometimes even sweeten the deal with incentives.

Now, that’s crazy-talk you might say but these precious 1937 pennies are worth a pretty penny (I couldn’t resist). These King Edward VIII pennies fetch as much as $402,500. In other words, ten of these little coins equals the $4 million dollars the Canadian government is going to save. Not to mention the other rare pennies they’ll come across. Now that’s worth enough to have a guy hand sort them.

Because the Royal Canadian Mint still doesn’t know what they’re going to do with any American pennies they collect, it might be possible to separate all those American pennies at the same time and let the U.S. redeem them from us. Ca-ching!

A Fishy Situation

While the beautiful koi swimming in Chinese restaurant ponds might want to take a deep figurative breath that they will be safe from copper toxicity, and only in danger of getting pelted with monetary projectiles, they will be disappointed to learn that pennies aren’t the end of copper coins. In fact, every Canadian coin, except the $1 coin, is made of copper of varying quantities.

Koi doing what koi do best. symptoms of copper toxicity are gasping at the surface and disorientation.

Koi doing what koi do best. symptoms of copper toxicity are gasping at the surface and disorientation.

Pennies are Icky

While the death of the penny might fill Canadians with varying degrees of sentimentality, remorse and reluctant acceptance, it will certainly be relief for one group of Canadians. People with cuprolaminophobia will find solace in the death of the copper sibling of the coins that fuel their phobia. While people suffering from cuprolaminophobia are repulsed by all coins, the copper coin seems to bring far greater dread, even to those with mild cases. While some might read into that as some racial profiling, the truth is that this is often developed in childhood. the taste of a copper coin brings to mind the taste of blood and this connection seems to have remained with many people throughout their lives.

For those of you who failed third grade math, here's how you'll deal without the penny.

For those of you who failed third grade math, here’s how you’ll deal without the penny.

Other (sort of) True Canadian Penny News:

  • Thoughts will now be a nickel but a lucky penny will still be a lucky penny, perhaps even luckier for it’s rarity.
  • Penny (played by Kaley Cuoco who dated Canadian actor-model Kevin Zegers) from the Big Bang Theory, the television show that follows the “Big Bang Theory Theme” by Canadian super-group the Barenaked Ladies, will still remain in circulation.
  • Penny from Inspector Gadget, co-produced by Canadian animation giant Nelvana, is still no longer in circulation.
  • Penny Marshall, Television’s Laverne of Laverne and Shirley, worked at a fictitious Milwaukee brewery called “Shotz Brewery“. Shotz was based entirely on a Labbatt’s/Molson-esque brewery and had nothing to do with the fact that Milwaukee was once the home to four of the world’s largest beer breweries (Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst and Miller), and was the number one beer producing city in the world for many years…um…ah…because Canada invented Beer…and Laverne and Shirley were Canadian spies in the War of 1812.
  • Other countries have also nixed the penny, including Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Now that Canada has eliminated the one-cent coin, there is still the issue of the United States continuing to use the penny. What to do? What to do? I can recall vividly, traveling and living in the U.S. and I can remember times when some cashier went out of their way to make me feel worthless, a bit of a penny one might say. These were times when I was making a purchase and a lowly Canadian penny was mixed in with coins! The cashier would give me a look of disgust, segregate my Canadian penny, and push it back across the counter as if I had attempted to pull one over on her. Old ladies would clutch their purses and I would be treated like some penniless drifter.

Well now, here we are with some pretty strong currency and no longer using that lowly penny. I suggest we ready our index fingers and, while continuing to be polite because we should be better than to make them feel ashamed about their little Lincoln-headed (I think the other side is a radiator), but push it back across the counter all the same. Pay-back’s a bitch, eh?

Goodbye one-cent coin. You will be remembered like the one, two and one thousand dollar notes and you will be sort of missed.

In case you still don't get it.

In case you still don’t get it.


And now…a Rene Simard moment!

Here are some highlights from the Rene Simard Show in 1978…


Rachel Wilson signed her Stamp!

MLF-RachelWilson

The back of CanadianCultureThing postcard CCT0106 featuring the lovely Rachel Wilson.

On January 14th Canadian sweetheart Rachel Wilson was by Valhalla and signed her MapleLeafForever stamp (CCT0106)! She was accompanied by her bombshell friend Bomb Girls’ Ali Liebert (upcoming MapleLeafForever stamp inductee).

Knockout Rachel Wilson at Valhalla with her MapleLeafForever stamp.

Knockout Rachel Wilson at Valhalla with her MapleLeafForever stamp.

Ottawa-born Rachel seems to have been in at least one episode of every show produced between 1994 and the present, as well as having a starring role in an impressive 7 series’. She has also been in such major films like Mystery Alaska, the Glass House and Saw 3D.

Greetings from Ottawa c1951, Rachel Wilson's hometown.

Greetings from Ottawa c1951, Rachel Wilson’s hometown.

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While the Liquor Stores are still open…

New Year's Cocktails. From Liberty Magazine December 1959.

New Year’s Cocktails. From Liberty Magazine December 1959.

CCT-New Year's Cocktails-1959-LNew Year's Cocktails-1959-R

Have a great New Year’s Eve everybody!


We Are More by Shane Koyczan

I remember slam poet Shane Koyczan at the 2010 Winter Olympics closing show. He was the icing-sugar on an Uber-Canadian cultural explosion of a beaver-tail-a-polooza, the Maple Syrup on a bottle of ice wine, beer splashed on a pair of hockey skates! It was just about the best live show I’ve seen produced in Canada.


Washington Burning

Attacking Washington during the War of 1812

On August 25 during the third year of the War of 1812, British Troops torched the White House and the buildings housing the Senate and the House of Representatives amongst other buildings that the Americans hadn’t burned themselves. The campaign was in retaliation to lowly attacks on Canadian citizens and private property along the north shore of Lake Erie in May of 1814.

On August 24th, 1814, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross (not to be mistaken with General “Thunderbolt” Ross who spent many years hunting the Incredible Hulk although no less tenacious) occupied Washington, D.C. and set many fires on controlled targets in the American capitol. Due to the strict discipline of the British troops, private buildings and dwellings were preserved, garnering the respect of much of the American citizenry, while facilities of the U.S. Government were utterly destroyed.

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Discussing Bigotry in Canada with Lincoln Alexander and Len Marchand – 1968

Lincoln MacCauley Alexander

On Friday, former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Lincoln Alexander passed away at the age of 90. Having lived a great political life, politician and statesman Born in Toronto on January21, 1922, Alexander would serve his country in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, graduate from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1953. In 1968 he ran in Canada’s federal election and became Canada’s first black Minister of Parliament and held the post until resigning in 1980.

In 1985 Lincoln Alexander was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and became the first black person to serve in a viceregal position in Canada which he held until 1991. A year later he was appointed to the Order of Canada.

Len Marchand

Leonard Stephen Marchand of the  Okanagan Indian Band was born on November 16, 1933 in Vernon, British Columbia and after a career in agronomy, he turned his attention to native concerns and served with the North American Indian Brotherhood.  He later turned his attention to Ottawa, lobbying for Native issues and after becoming a special assistant to two cabinet ministers, Marchand became the first person of the First Nations to serve on the federal cabinet. He was later to become the 2nd person of aboriginal descent to sit on the Canadian Senate. In 1999, he was appointed to the Order of Canada. He retired in 1998.

Below is a reproduction of an interview in the Toronto Telegram’s Weekend Magazine from November 30, 1968 with newly appointed Ministers of Parliament, Lincoln Alexander and Len Marchand. In it they discus their younger lives and how racism and bigotry had affected them. The Canada of the 50’s and 60’s could not stop professing it’s lack of racism, boasting the Underground Railroad and it’s forward thinking but it wasn’t until the late 60’s that this untruth began moving towards truth with the birth of a new Canada. In 1965 we chose a new flag, a truly modern flag for a new world and then in 1968 we chose a new kind of leader in Pierre Elliot Trudeau. In that same federal election, Canada elected it’s first black and first native person to sit as Ministers of Parliament and with that a New Canada began to be realised.

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