September 30, 2020

BY ALLANAH PINHORN

Children’s piggybanks will be a little lighter, void of the clinking, coppery penny, now that a Canadian pioneer has been retired. Since 1858, when the first penny was minted, it has symbolized Canada, being the only coin to bear a maple leaf.

The penny, officially known as the cent, was deemed irrelevant by many Canadians. A survey conducted in 2007 approximated that only 37 per cent of Canadians used their pennies despite the fact that the government minted them at a rate of about 25 pennies per person, per year.

Now they’re gone, but not forgotten, as people cling to the rust-coloured coin as a heritage memento. One of those people is Renee Gruszecki, the owner and designer at Coin Coin Designs in Halifax, N.S. Gruszecki uses the defunct coin to produce custom jewelry such as rings and pendants, for those looking for a little history on their person.

“I think the penny is a great loss of Canadian cultural and social history,” she said. “We all identify with it. I cannot imagine making a wish in the Centennial Fountain on Parliament Hill with a dime.”

Kirk Parsons, of Colonial Acres Coins Ltd., in Kitchener, views the penny in much the same way.

“We are seeing new people coming in and buying pennies and completing their penny collections,” he said. “Now someone can say they own a complete penny collection, 1858 to 2012.”

He also recognizes that while the phasing out of the penny has increased people’s interest in them, it made sense for Ottawa to stop production. He said the buying power of the penny has eroded with the economy and it is a financial burden on the mint (since it costs 1.6 cents to make each one), as well as banks and businesses across Canada which had to invest time and money into handling pennies.

But that doesn’t mean that the penny has lost all value: nostalgia is often priceless and Parsons is seeing a rise in customers with “penny stories” of their own.

“Our senior collectors say, as children, the penny is what got them started on collecting. Many of them reminisce about their attempts to get one penny from each year.”