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.
The RCGS acknowledges that its offices are located on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Peoples, who have been guardians of, and in relationship with, these lands for thousands of years. We further acknowledge and recognize that our work reaches across all of the distinct First Nations, Métis Homelands and Inuit Nunangat, and for this we are grateful.