A penny for your thoughts

As of Monday, Feb. 4, pennies are no longer being circulated in Canada. Find out a little bit about the penny's history here.

As of Monday, Feb. 4, pennies are no longer being circulated by the Royal Canadian Mint. And as of Monday, businesses are being encouraged (but not required) to round the final price for cash transactions up or down.

Phasing out the penny is estimated to save taxpayers $11 million a year, but it may cause some confusion for business owners and customers alike.

As pennies exit circulation, cash payments will need to be rounded, either up or down, to the nearest five-cent increment. The penny will remain Canada’s smallest unit for pricing goods and services. According to the Royal Canadian Mint, pennies can still be used in cash transactions indefinitely with businesses that choose to accept them, and payments made by cheque or electronic transactions will not be affected at all.

Charities will continue accepting pennies, and we at the Chronicle will still happily take pennies off your hands to donate to the Christmas Cheer Fund through our annual Pennies for Presents campaign.

The first British large copper penny was struck in 1797, and Canada’s first penny was struck by the British Royal Mint in London in 1858.

The British Royal Mint opened a branch in Ottawa in 1908, and since then, 35 billion pennies have been minted. Stacked up, they would be 52,600 kilometers high — the equivalent of almost 100,000 CN Towers. Side by side, they would circle the earth 16 times.

In 1858, the penny weighed 4.54 grams and was 25.4 millimetres round. In 1908, it weighed 5.67 grams and was 25.4 millimeters round. From 2000 until the last Canadian penny was struck May 4, 2012, in Winnipeg, the penny has weighed 2.35 grams and measured 19.05 millimetres in diametre.

During the first year the penny was minted in Canada in 1908, 2,401,506 pennies were struck. In 2011 (the most recent numbers available on the Mint’s website) 662,750,000 pennies were minted — a far cry from the highest number of 1,261,883,000 in 2006.

— The Chronicle