Canada’s cent slinks away into the annals of history

So this is the way it ends, not with a bang but a whimper. With all apologies to the memory of T.S. Eliot, the end of the 1-cent coin was, for me, a bit of an anticlimax. By that I mean it seems that almost nobody had any strong objections. There was no public outcry, no desperate last-minute effort to keep the former workhorse of Canadian coins, and I have not even heard a single complaint at any of the stores where I have transacted business since Feb. 4. It seems that we collectors, who mostly value the coin as a collectible, or as a memento of our early days in the hobby, are the only ones who even seemed to mourn its passing.

To me, this means one of two things: either Canadians are smart people, who knew the coin has long since lost its usefulness; or we are sheep who just accept whatever decisions are passed down from Parliament Hill. I prefer to think the former. The popularity of debit cards, and the continued decline of the number of cash transactions, are likely also factors. On the other hand, I have a bit of a problem getting excited about the Royal Canadian Mint’s closing salvo in the event: a roll of 1-cent coins, priced at $9.95, with special packaging, and the unbearable rarity of being among just the last one million coins struck. Now I know rarity is relative, but that is relative to demand, and I can’t believe that long-term demand is going to be for tens of thousands of rolls of Mint State last-strike coins.

Right now the market is excited, perhaps because some people figure these things have to be rare because “they aren’t making them anymore.” Well my logic is that they pretty much stopped making butter churns a long time ago, and they haven’t proven to be much of an investment. Having said that, I am amazed to find that some dealers sold out their allocation in a few days, and that online sellers have been asking for as much as $30, a huge markup on an item that was still available from the Mint at issue price. But make your own judgment here. I won’t be stockpiling any of these myself, or even getting a single roll as a souvenir. It is possible that the rolls will become hugely popular. I mean if one in 10 Canadians decided they wanted a roll for themselves, the demand would be through the roof, and these puppies would be the numismatic investment of the year.

So here is some good news, just in case you’re already missing the 1-cent coin. Within a year or so, the population of 1-cent coins will be almost entirely limited to the holdings of collectors, and a few hoards. That means that before long, the population reports of third-party grading firms will give us a good idea of relative populations and we can view all old mintage figures as little more than history. The really great 1-cent coins, such as full red Vickies, early Georges, and the fabled 1936 dot, are going to hold their value in the numismatic market, since their present value is based on mature collector demand, with nothing to do with today’s circulating coins. For me the best news is that people won’t be looking in their pockets, spotting that unusual 1967 rock dove cent, and contacting Canadian Coin News to confirm that they are now rich.

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