Nickle Pinchers: The Inevitable Elimination of the Penny
"Change in all things is sweet" - Aristotle
Horse Rides and Lotto Tickets
Well, we had a good run didn't we? For all intents and purposes, you've been obsolete for a long time now, but we just couldn't part with you yet - or at least not with the idea of you. You've basically only served to annoy us for decades, but we love you, as they say, for sentimental reasons.
We ignored you on sidewalks as nothing more than casual litter; we discarded you in red trays proclaiming your uselessness; and we declined your company when pressed for time at the gas station. Your once-shimmering brilliance has faded to a corroded simulacrum of a former, more valuable self, and, like all things, good or bad, your time has run up. You've served your purpose and it's time to ride off into the sunset with dignity.
Personally, I'd like to thank you for your assistance with the occasional lottery scratch-off, for those magnificent, adventuresome horse rides at the grocery store when I was a boy, and for all the wishes - wasted, granted, and otherwise... Other than that, good riddance one cent piece!
Okay, so it's not official yet, but the inevitable can't be that far ahead of us. It seems that the penny is destined to be phased out of registers from Tampa to Tacoma and Detroit to Daytona, perhaps sooner rather than later. In fact, our neighbors to the north just announced that they'll be discontinuing their single cent currency effective immediately, following similar moves made by Australia and New Zealand. All production of the coin has ceased, and the last batch of new pennies was distributed on February 4th, which is also the date that merchants in Canada were asked to begin using basic math in rounding cash exchanges to the nearest nickel. For electronic and check transactions, the amount won't be rounded, as the exact amount can be settled without the use of the coin. Canadian officials cite two primary reasons for discontinuing the diminutive copper piece, both of which are definitely just as applicable here in the States.
The first is that the penny is no longer worth itself. It costs 1.6 loonies (the amazingly rad designator for the Canadian dollar) to produce 100 pennies. In the U.S., this figure is even more out of whack; it costs 2.41 cents to make a penny. Like most government spending, this seems like a gross mis-allocation of taxpayers' money, especially considering the subtle contempt that most people have for the relatively useless coin. In all, the Royal Canadian Mint estimates that the plan will save taxpayers around $11 million per year.
The second reason the Canadian penny is being abruptly discontinued and gradually phased out involves the immense handling costs for retailers and citizens alike. Again, this argument is equally relevant in the U.S. It's estimated that the average American spend nearly 2.5 hours every year either handling pennies or waiting for others handling them (i.e. cashiers). This might not seem like a lot of time at face value, but over the course of the average lifespan, the senseless task of counting and shuffling pennies will eat up about a week of your life. Time is valuable my friends - too valuable to waste bothering with antiquated currency.
It's estimated that there are 35 billion pennies still circulating throughout Canada, which add up to a total of 181 million pounds (82 million kg). Businesses will be afforded the option of using any pennies that come into their possession, but, if they choose not to do so, they can change them in at banks, who will then transfer them to the Royal Mint to be melted down into recyclable metal.
The penny isn't the first relic of a bygone era to be shipped off quietly into the dark and tranquil sea of meaninglessness. Think about all the once-great items that we have ignored or discarded entirely over the years as they've lost their relevance, some slowly, others instantaneously: the typewriter, Demi Moore, Surge, cassette tapes, Polaroids, the Atkins Diet, Tom Green, Frankenberry, Metallica... The list will quite literally go on forever. All of these things meant so much to so many, but we had to cut them loose once their perceived value was trumped by their genuine worthlessness. Such is the life of the insanely popular; you just can't stay on top forever. A replacement entity or item always exists, they just haven't had their moment in the sun yet. (Yet being the operative term in this instance.)
Which brings us back to the penny. At one point, the one cent piece was the most commonly used coin in the world. Now it just seems archaic and a little sad. In the future, I imagine it will be nothing more than a desperate talking point at '90s night at the bar or the kitschy element of a mosaic representing the shift from agrarian to industrial culture in the West. (People really eat that stuff up.)
So, while this may be a sad day for the penny - one that signals its impending doom - we should rejoice in the evolution of our currency and be open to inevitable changes lurking just beyond the horizon. We've known for years that the penny was a silly little piece of zinc that held no real value, but we haven't been able to muster the courage to admit it. And, really, physical currency seems to be standing on its last legs anyway; both paper money and coins are in the twilight of their existence. In fact, many economists predict that the world will run exclusively on electronic transactions within the next twenty years or so - bad news for panhandlers.
For every Michael Jordan, there's a Lebron James; for every Nintendo, there's a PS3; for every Jimi Hendrix there's a, um... bad example. So now it's time for the nickel (another coin that costs more to produce than the value it represents) to step up, which means that the price of those horse rides likely just increased 500%! To the children of America, on behalf of your parents, I sincerely apologize. Oh, and I'd like those wishes back please.
Bomkamp, Samantha. "Canada Drops Penny From Its Currency: U.S. Eyes Changes for Coin That Costs More than Its Value to Produce." Business. Chicago Tribune. 5 Feb 2013. Web. 7 Feb 2013.
McQuigge, Michelle. "A Penniless Canada: Mint Begins Years-Long Process of Collecting and Melting Down 82-Million Kg in Coins." Canada. National Post. 6 Feb. 2013. Web. 7 Feb. 2013.