Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Give 'em your two cents

Rounding in as penny phased out

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Round up, round down.

That's what retailers across Canada will be doing starting Monday, the first day that banks will not be providing them with pennies for change.

According to federal guidelines, if you owe $5.02, you'll pay $5.00 in cash. If your total is a penny or two more, you'll pay $5.05 in cash.

It's one of the final stages of phasing out the one-cent coin.

But as much as many Canadians have waxed nostalgic about their beloved pennies, it's not going to affect that many of us.

Lanny McInnes, Prairie-region director of the Retail Council of Canada, said just 22 per cent of all transactions are done with cash; the rest are completed by debit card or credit card. "That total has been decreasing for years," he said.

So, if you're paying with plastic, you'll still pay to the penny, just as you always have.

But if you want to keep paying with pennies, go right ahead, said Glenn Friesen, CEO of the Steinbach Credit Union.

"Pennies are legal tender forever. If somebody brings us $100 in pennies, we will accept them. You can buy a hotdog entirely with pennies," he said.

When banks and credit unions turn pennies in to the Royal Canadian Mint, they'll be taken out of service. "After a certain amount of time, you won't have pennies in your pocket anymore," Friesen said.

And if you've got a few pickle jars full of pennies in a closet, don't hold on to them expecting to strike it rich. Jasmine Allen from Gatewest Coin Ltd. said the value of coins depends largely on their scarcity. And there are billions of pennies out there, in long-forgotten piggybanks, in couches and underneath car seats.

"People are going to be hoarding them and there are going to be so many of them in the next 50 and 100 years, they're not going to be worth anything," she said.

Even though pennies were called "coppers" in the past, that metal was replaced by a cheaper one after 1998. Pennies from that year and before contain two cents worth of copper, but it would take five cents to refine it.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

THE most valuable penny in Canadian history was minted in 1936. Because of a minting error, the entire lot that year was recalled, but three pennies -- distinctive by a dot on the date side -- are known to have escaped the Mint's eye. The last one to change hands sold for $400,000.

THE so-called "small cent" has been a part of the Canadian money supply since 1920, the same year it phased out the "large cent," a one-cent coin that was about the size of a quarter. For that year only, there were "small" and "large" pennies minted.

-- Source: Gatewest Coin Ltd.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2013 A8

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