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Adiós, au revoir, farewell . . . the Canadian penny rides off into the sunset

Nelson Daily Staff
By Nelson Daily Staff
February 6th, 2013

By Suzy Hamilton, The Nelson Daily

Your pennies may have come from heaven, but they’re going into the melting pot now, as local merchants round their prices to the nearest nickel to prepare for a penniless future.

Pennies were taken out of circulation in Canada on February 4.

Only the banks and credit unions will now take your pennies one day after the official withdrawal of the one cent coin by the Canadian government.

“They will still be legal tender,” said Nelson and District Credit Union  teller coach Racquel Rushton. “But we don’t give them out.”

Like the $1000 bill that went extinct 20 years ago, pennies can be exchanged for currency in circulation or deposited in accounts.

“We had a few members buying them up for special projects, but we can’t sell them anymore.”

Carla Madore at Kootenay Currency Exchange  is not too concerned.

“We actually don’t like the penny,” she said. “I’m going to stop taking any rolls of pennies.” But as for the American counterpart, “we’ll still have to deal with them.”

Nelson’s El Taco restaurant was one of the few local businesses that took cash only, but it now accepts plastic. Plastic transactions will still include the purchase amount to the cent.

“I wish there was a program to round out the bill automatically,” said owner Justine Langevin.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to round out every (cash) transaction. I won’t know for a week or so how it’s going to work.”

At Packrat Annie’s book store, all transactions are kept by hand and rounding up or down is not difficult.

“If people want pennies, we’ll give them back as long as we have them,” said owner Jan Biava. “But we can’t get any more.”

This may come as a disappointment for those numismatists hoping to find a rare 1936 “dot penny” in their piggy banks. The Canadian coin sold for more than $400,000 at a 2010 auction.

The mint placed the dots on the coins as it experimented with making currency in 1937 that still carried the date of the year before.

This was done because King George’s successor had abdicated the throne, leaving the mint without a monarch’s face on the coins.

The mint experimented with 1936-dated coins struck in 1937 with a dot added to the design to distinguish them from coins struck earlier, according to internet information. There are three known in existence.

“It’s challenging,” said Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson. “A lot of people rely on machines to tell them what to charge.”

He added: “ I hope there’s not penny police.”

So there may be no more pennies for your thoughts, or bad pennies coming home, but you can still play the penny slots at Chances Casino in Castlegar.
Although gamblers don’t actually put a penny in the slots, each game costs one cent to play. 

Your winnings will be rounded to the nearest five cents, but that hasn’t started yet, said manager Fred Ramgren.

“We’ve still got a good supply of pennies.”

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