On today’s date in 2012, the Royal Canadian Mint produced its – and perhaps Canada’s – final penny coin.
On May 4, former finance minister and minister responsible for the Mint, Jim Flaherty, struck the last penny produced for Canadian circulation at the Mint’s high-speed manufacturing facility in Winnipeg, Man.
“The Mint has proudly produced the penny to satisfy the needs of Canada’s trade and commerce for over one hundred years,” said Ian Bennett, former Mint president and CEO. “Although today marks the end of an era for this denomination, the Mint has a solid international reputation on which to build a future without the penny.”
Flaherty said recent years had seen Canadian taxpayers burdened with the rising cost of producing pennies.
“While the penny can still be used in day-to-day transactions, our government is encouraging Canadians to donate their pennies to charities in order to make a difference in their communities.”
The last penny struck for Canadian circulation was entrusted to the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada in Ottawa as a permanent reminder of its contributions to Canada’s economy and history.
The Government of Canada’s economic action plan of 2012 saw it as modernizing the country’s currency set with the elimination of the penny. While the coins have remained legal tender, the Mint stopped distributing pennies in fall 2012 due to rising labour, metal and other manufacturing and distribution costs. Each penny cost more than 1.6 cents to produce, but fortunately for Canadian taxpayer’s, the Mint’s multi-ply plated steel technology allows all other Canadian circulation coins to cost well under face value to produce.
Between 2000 and 2012, the 2.35-gram pennies, with a diameter of 19.05 mm, were composed of 94 per cent steel, 1.5 per cent nickel and a 4.5 per cent copper plating. However, while the Mint claims 2000 as the year it transitioned from zinc to steel, zinc-core pennies were issued every year that decade, excluding 2008. Steel pennies produced before 2002 were test pieces for calibrating coin-operated machines and are very rare in circulation.
The pennies were withdrawn from circulation on Feb. 4, 2013. The Currency Act states: “A payment in coins … is a legal tender for no more than … 25 cents if the denomination is one cent.” That same day, the Mint began melting the roughly 35 billion pennies that were in circulation.