OTD: Mint strikes Canada’s final circulation cent

On today’s date in 2012, the Royal Canadian Mint produced its final circulation cent.

The coin was struck by former finance minister Jim Flaherty 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, then 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 the preceding years saw 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 (now known as the Bank of Canada Museum) in Ottawa as a permanent reminder of its contributions to Canada’s economy and history.

ECONOMIC ACTION PLAN

According to the Government of Canada’s economic action plan of 2012, the elimination of the penny was deemed to be “modernizing” the country’s currency set. While the coins have remained legal tender, the Mint stopped distributing pennies in fall 2012 due to rising labour costs, metal costs and other manufacturing and distribution costs. Each penny cost more than 1.6 cents to produce, but the Mint’s multi-ply plated steel allows all other Canadian circulation coins to be produced for less than their face value.

Between 2000 and 2012, the penny had a weight of 2.35 grams; a diameter of 19.05 millimetres; and a composition of 94 per cent steel, 1.5 per cent nickel and a 4.5 per cent copper plating. While the Mint claims 2000 as the year it transitioned from zinc to steel, zinc-core pennies were issued every year throughout the following decade, excluding 2008. Steel pennies produced before 2002 were test pieces for calibrating coin-operated machines and were 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The pennies were withdrawn from circulation on Feb. 4, 2013.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That same day, the Mint began recovering the now-withdrawn cents, six billion of which have since been returned and sold to a metal processor. A total of 35 billion pennies, including large cents, have been produced since the Mint opened in 1908.

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