In 1908 the Royal Canadian Mint struck its first coin, a fifty-cent piece. It was the second coin struck, however, that became the most prevalent of all Canadian change. It may have lacked the precious-metal value of the silver dollar, but the penny — officially known as the one-cent coin — assumed its supremacy-by-proportion early on. And as of today, the Royal Canadian Mint will no longer be distributing the denomination.
The one-cent coin has evolved over the past century. Once pure copper, its metal composition has been changed often, due to a flux in the value of metals. Today the standard composition is 94 percent steel, 1.5 percent nickel and 4.5 percent copper-plated zinc. Yet its appearance has remained remarkably consistent — save for the occasional change of reigning monarch on the heads-side.
The buying-power of the penny has significantly diminished since it was introduced in 1858, then produced by the British Royal Mint; thanks to inflation, it now takes about 27 cents to purchase what originally cost a single cent. To mark the passing of the penny, we’ve collected these recent stories and updates:
The one-cent coin is our smallest form of currency. The Royal Canadian Mint makes 816 million pennies per annum. Desjardins Group, in 2007, estimated 20 billion pennies were in existence — translating to roughly 600 pennies for each Canadian. That is a hefty amount of coinage to take in.
Although a penny may be the first coin tossed into a wishing well, or casually dropped on the sidewalk, the coin has survived for more than a century. From walking down the street to cracking open a childhood piggy bank, one is bound to cross paths with a penny. Though the coin may soon be removed from circulation, collectors need not fret: the penny will remain a part of Canadian history for centuries to come.
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About the Society
Canadian Geographic is a magazine of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society. The Royal Canadian Geographical Society is dedicated to making Canada better known to Canadians, and the world.