It was almost exactly four years ago that a widely quoted study from Desjardins tallied the cost of using the penny and recommended scrapping it.
Then last month, a Senate committee came to the same conclusion, saying it costs a half-cent more to make a penny than it's worth. And just yesterday, calling it a "nuisance," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty admitted the penny “probably doesn’t have that great a future.”
Come on already, get on with it. Pennies are junking up my dresser, which bugs my wife, they’re a pain to roll, and they clog the hose on the vacuum. And if the advertised price at the store is $8.99, that won’t include tax so you’re not getting the penny back anyway.
Sure, pennies are used in the odd phrase - A penny for your thoughts, my two cents worth - and they can be collectibles. And then there’s The Copper Penny restaurant where the Queen’s University kids hang out in Kingston, Ont.
But besides that, what use is the penny in this day and age? In mid-February, 2007, when Desjardins issued its lengthy report, it pointed out then that it costs at least $130-million a year - that’s more than $4 per person - to keep it in circulation. Rounding off to the nearest nickel was the way to go, its authors argued.
“The penny has so little purchasing power that more and more Canadians are refusing it as change for their purchases,” Desjardins said. “They instead make them available to the retailer and next customer by placing them in a container near the cash register for this purpose. Other consumers accumulate large quantities of pennies and rarely take the time to roll them and bring them to the bank. Others simply throw them away.”
Here’s what the researchers found:
- The number of loonies in circulation since 1987, when the paper money was replaced, reached 852 million by the end of 2005. The number of toonies, introduced in 1996, reached 554 million by 2005. Together, the coins represented $1.96-billion, equal to 61 loonies per capita at the time. “Over the five years from 2001 to 2005, the value of these two coins has increased at a relatively stable pace that is compatible with nominal GDP (approximately 5 per cent).”
- For pennies, the researchers calculated that the total number issued since 1908 had reached 30.5 billion coins, or almost 953 pennies per capita, by the end of 2005. In the 2001-2005 period, the government issued an average 816 million pennies a year, or more than 25 per capita.
“These figures on the number of pennies in circulation and on their annual increase show clearly that the one-cent coin is not very useful and that consumers horde or throw it away rather than deposit it and put it back into the distribution system.
That was the finding in 2007 - before the recession, when every penny counted - and the argument still holds water today.