Today in Canada, we say good-bye to the humble penny. I think a lot of people are probably happy to say farewell to this piece of copper (or copper-plated zinc or steel since 1997) that clutters up our wallets, gets stuck in the washing machine and gets swept up with the crumbs and fur balls from the floor.
I feel a little conflicted today. I am one of those people who never had much use for the penny: as a unit of currency it has never made much sense (cents - ha!) to me. It has made the ridiculous .99 prices possible, after all. But the history buff in me - the person who's sad we don't send letters anymore, who loves old stamps and typewriters - is a little sad. It's similar to the sinking feeling I had when the Royal Canadian Mint phased out the one and two dollar bills, but this time it goes deeper. The penny, the one cent, which has been around since before Confederation, will no longer be part of Canadian life.
Think about how the penny has been part of our cultural fabric: "a penny for your thoughts", penny loafers, "a penny saved is a penny earned", a lucky penny, throw a penny in a fountain and make a wish, penny sales and penny drives. These will now be things we used to say or do. I think what I'll miss the most, though, is the sense of history you get when you study a penny or run your thumb across its surface. When was it minted? Which maple leaf design does it have? Or is it a 1967 penny with Alex Colville's rock dove design? Is it round or 12-sided? Each one has its own shade of brown patina and history of pocket-dwelling and changing hands.
Maybe I'm being over-sentimental about a little round piece of metal. But, as much as I'll be glad to carry a lighter wallet, there's a part of me that feels sad to lose a piece of history today.
Jane Hogeterp Koopman
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