On Friday, Canada minted its last penny.
The rationale for this move is that it costs more to mint the penny ($.016 each) than the penny is worth. In addition, Canada’s Finance Minister concluded that people weren’t using the penny for business. Instead, they were just putting them in jars at home. So, no more Canadian pennies will be minted. Those that have been minted thus far will remain in circulation — at least until they get tossed into the penny jar on someone’s bedroom dresser or kitchen counter.
It will be interesting to see exactly how this works. According to the linked article, retailers will charge credit cards to the penny, but the price for people paying cash will be rounded to the nearest five-cent interval. Odd to think that people paying with declared legal tender might end up paying a few cents more for that privilege than people swiping a plastic card, isn’t it? I imagine that retailers will just establish uniform prices in five-cent intervals to avoid the issue. Canadians won’t see any more of those beckoning $9.99 prices that retailers are so fond of; instead, Canadians will be seeing a lot of $9.95.
People have urged the U.S. to do what Canada has done, which is probably the first step toward an entirely electronic economy. All money is an abstraction, of course, but at least there was a satisfying physical dimension to dollars in your wallet and coins in your pocket, and its cumbersomeness provided some security. Now, the accounts holding your life savings can be emptied in the blink of an eye by a savvy hacker a world away with a few well-chosen keystrokes.
This is called progress. Of course, if that unfortunate incident happens, we can all fall back on the pennies we’ve carefully hoarded.