This article was originally published in April of 2012 but it seems fitting to take a look at it again!
Last week, my colleague Quiet Mike laid out the reasons why it’s a good thing the Canadian penny will soon be a thing of the past. On a strictly logical level, I agree with him.
It doesn’t make sense to spend 2 1/2 cents producing something that is only worth one. Also, bars, buses and other common elements of our commerce don’t take pennies already.
However, on a deeper level, I mourn the loss of the penny. Can you blame me? It’s been with me my whole life.
While I may date myself when I say that I (vaguely) remember a time before toonies (the first time I got one as change I thought it was a chocolate coin), I think it’s safe to say that we are all familiar with the penny. Things change, and sentimentality isn’t enough to defy logic & economics. But, by losing the penny we are also forever altering or outright losing aspects of our lives.
Finding pennies in the couch is the first to go. Remember rooting through your sofa and finding enough change to make the difference in a purchase of a pack of smokes or a carton of milk? That will no longer be possible in a few months.
Next, what will happen with the take a penny, leave a penny tray. The beauty of such an insignificant denomination of currency is in its utter insignificance. Will there be a take a nickel, leave a nickel jar? Maybe with inflation some day, but probably not anytime soon.
But the single most significant loss is not so much economic as it is cultural. Penny for your thoughts? What does that mean? Nothing. Your thoughts now mean nothing.
What about people named or nicknamed Penny. Their names, while remaining cool and romantic (never met anyone named Penny, but I’m sure I’d love her if I did) are also now obsolete references.
What about references in songs. One of my favourite songs from my late teenage years came from a forever unknown NDG band named Lint (a friend’s old high-school band) and had the indelibly powerful and mood setting lyric “Just like a penny on the tracks…” (I can’t remember the follow-up line, but the rhyme was “turn back”)
Whether or not you have a better example, the penny has an element of nostalgia and can take you back to a specific time and place. The penny has permeated our popular culture and, dare I say, our very souls.
Stephen Harper, the Royal Canadian Mint and even the proprietors of the take a penny trays can’t take that away. Correction, they can’t take that away from this generation or even the next generation, but a hundred years from now, we’re looking at pennies being the new bootleg alcohol, 8-track cassette or paperboy.
Interesting. Someone who almost relishes and at the very least hopes to gain from the disappearance of the printed word lamenting the loss of the penny.
But you know, I can’t see anything better replacing this icon, so it’s a loss.
And that’s my two cents…whatever that means now.
* Currency porn photos by Phyllis Papoulias