Canada begins phasing out its penny

Associated Press + More

By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press

TORONTO (AP) — Canada started phasing out its penny, the nuisance coins that clutter dressers and cost more than their one-cent value to produce.

The Royal Canadian Mint on Monday officially ended its distribution of pennies to financial institutions. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced last year they were a nuisance and have outlived their purpose.

While people may still use pennies, the government has issued guidelines urging store owners to start rounding prices to the nearest nickel for cash transactions. Electronic purchases will still be billed to the nearest cent.

The government has said the cost of the penny exceeds its monetary value. Production is $11 million a year. The coins, which feature two maple leaves and Queen Elizabeth II in profile, will remain legal tender until they eventually disappeared from circulation.

Opposition New Democrat Member of Parliament Pat Martin gave a poetic goodbye to the penny in Parliament on Monday.

"There's nothing a penny will buy any more, not a gum ball or small piece of candy," Martin said. "Note the penny is a nuisance. It costs too much to make. They clutter our change purse and they don't circulate. They build up in piles in old cookie jars under our beds and in our desk drawers. You can't give them away. They cost more than what they're worth. It's time to put them all out to pasture, put them out to the curb. No, the penny is useless, but there is one thing I'd say, I hope they don't start treating old MPs this way."

Google is marking the passing of the penny with a dedicated doodle on its Canadian home page.

The currency museum at Canada's central bank has already taken steps to preserve the penny's place in Canadian culture. A mural consisting of nearly 16,000 one-cent pieces has been assembled at the museum to commemorate the coin's history, said assistant curator Raewyn Passmore.

New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Sweden and others have also dropped the penny.

The U.S. Treasury Department has said the Obama administration has looked at possibly using cheaper materials to make the penny, which is now made of zinc.

Two bills calling for the end of the U.S. penny, introduced in 2002 and 2006 by Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe, failed to advance in the House of Representatives.

The U.S. zinc lobby has been a major opponent to suggestions that the penny be eliminated.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.