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Jason Childs, an economics professor at U of R, counts the last of his pennies before they are taken out of circulation. Photo by Shinoah Young
by Shinoah Young

The country’s one cent coins are going back to the Bank of Canada for an official retirement in distribution. The copper coin costs more to make than it is worth (roughly between two to two-and-a-half cents), according to the finance department and the Royal Canadian Mint.

“Some people are surprised it started already,” said Brigitte Nelson, a Chartwells cafe worker on campus. “It only affects the cash transactions; the transactions with a card stay the same cents-wise and I have more debit and credit transactions daily than cash.”

Eliminating the penny makes sense to University of Regina economics professor Jason Childs.

“The other thing to remember is there’s costs associated with managing pennies and keeping them in circulation because somebody’s got to count them and cashing out at the end of the night - what a pain it is to add an extra 15 minutes on top of a retail worker’s shift,” said Childs.

“I don’t think eliminating the penny would affect a business’ cash flow but going completely cashless would. Using debit and credit cards is becoming more convenient. Some places have gone completely cashless for example, airlines if you’re on a flight and you want to buy lunch on the plane they won’t take anything other than plastic. No cash whatsoever,” said the economics professor.

“Where I think we might see some changes are in particular the charities that depend on that kind of cash box donation that box at the till. If you’ve got three pennies you might throw them in often; a nickel you might not.”

The Penny Project was a Habitat for Humanity program where local charities collected several millions of pennies to help raise funds to build less fortunate families new homes.

Getting rid of the penny requires a one-time cost on behalf of all retailers because the reprogramming of vending coin machines needs to be implemented.

But for the Mint, the 73 tonnes of coinage being collected from circulation have more value after the alloys are melted down because there are many commercial uses for copper aside from currency.

Copper is a globally traded commodity, holding purpose for industry and in electronics, wiring and plumbing, as well as for cosmetic uses. However “there’s a big distinction between a pre ‘95 penny and a post ‘ 95 penny, any pennies produced before 1995 are mostly all copper and anything after, are mostly zinc with a copper overlay,” said Childs.

“Retiring the penny adds more convenience rather than complexity and it’s an incremental step towards efficiency. Being a consumer myself, I don’t like to carry around a pocket full of change,” said U of R marketing professor Dwight Heinrichs.

“More and more we’re going into a cashless society where fewer and fewer transactions actually occur with coins,” said Heinrichs.

As for collecting all that change, Heinrichs said, “It’s a nuisance to collect and count and roll it.”

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