Counting pennies takes new meaning

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The thrifty lot that loves to count their pennies will feel the pinch. But as Canada begins to phase out the lowly copper starting in the next couple of months, people might have some questions of the arithmetical variety.

Doubtless, this is a divisive topic, with many consumers fearing they’ll end up paying more as prices are rounded up or down to the nearest five-cent mark. They’re expecting up will happen more than down – entirely feasible as merchandizers ensure the cost of an item plus tax ends more often in 3, 4, 8 or 9, rather than 1, 2, 6 and 7.

According to a story on the weekend from The Canadian Press, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty issued a cabinet order earlier this month that will see the Royal Mint stop distributing pennies starting Feb. 4. At the same time it will begin collecting the coins from financial institutions.

The ultimate destiny will see them melted down for the value of the metal. With the high price of copper, you can almost see the gleam in their eyes. Although, a warning, don’t try this at home, as destroying legal tender is highly illegal for the ordinary citizen.

So that gives us just a couple of months to scrape up the one-cent coins we have lying about and adding to the various charitable penny drives that are all the rage.

But some questions persist as we go merrily down this penniless path.

What happens with certain items, such as postage stamps, the price of which is characteristically hiked a couple of cents every year or so? Will the increases need to be set so that they round off as a multiple of five? That won’t be simple, since they’re subject to an HST charge.

Also, with the widespread use of debit cards, couldn’t the penny continue to exist in the virtual sense? You ring in your purchase and depending where the total lands, it could cost you two cents more, even though you’re using plastic?

For all of us who are quite price-conscious, the prospect comes across as inscrutable.


Organizations: Canadian Press, Royal Mint

Geographic location: Canada

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