Penny (Canadian coin)

Value 0.01 CAD
Mass 2.35 g
Diameter 19.05 mm
Thickness 1.45 mm
Edge smooth
Composition 94% steel,
1.5% Ni,
4.5% Cu plating
Years of minting 1858–2012
Catalog number CC 20
Design Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada
Designer Susanna Blunt
Design date 2003
Design Maple leaf branch
Designer G.E. Kruger Gray
Design date 1937

In Canada, a penny is a coin worth one cent, or 1100 of a dollar. According to the Royal Canadian Mint, the official national term of the coin is the "one-cent piece", but in practice the terms penny and cent predominate. Originally, "penny" referred to a two-cent coin. When the two-cent coin was discontinued, penny took over as the new one-cent coin's name. Penny was likely readily adopted because the previous coinage in Canada (up to 1858) was the British monetary system, where Canada used British pounds, shillings, and pence as coinage alongside U.S. decimal coins and Spanish milled dollars.

In Canadian French, the penny is called a cent, which is spelled the same way as the French word for "hundred" but pronounced like the English word (homonym to "sent"). Slang terms include cenne, cenne noire, or sou noir (black penny), although common Quebec French usage is sou.

Production of the penny ceased in May 2012,[1] and the Royal Canadian Mint ceased the distribution of them as of February 4, 2013.[2] However, like all discontinued currency in the Canadian monetary system, the coin remains legal tender. Once distribution of the coin ceased, though, vendors no longer were expected to return pennies as change for cash purchases, and were encouraged to round purchases to the nearest five cents.[3] Non-cash transactions are still denominated to the cent.


Like all Canadian coins, the obverse depicts the reigning Canadian monarch at the time of issue. The final obverse depicts Queen Elizabeth II; her likeness has seen three design updates, the first occurring in 1965, a 1990 update to the design of Dora de Pedery-Hunt, and the 2003 update designed by Susanna Blunt.[4] A special reverse side, depicting a rock dove, was issued in 1967 as part of a Centennial commemoration.[5] It was designed by the Canadian artist Alex Colville and its use in 1967 marked the only time the 1937 maple leaf design was not used for the penny before it was discontinued in 2012.[6] The maple twig depicted on the coin is botanically incorrect.[7] The Phyllotaxis of the twig on the coin is clearly alternate while maples in fact always have opposite leaves.

The 2012 coin had a round, smooth edge, as was the case for most of the penny's history; however, from 1982 to 1996, the coin was twelve-sided. This was done to help the visually impaired identify the coin.[8]


An 1876 penny featuring Queen Victoria
A 1902 penny featuring King Edward VII
A 1911 penny featuring King George V
A 1920 penny featuring King George V, the first year of the small penny
A 1937 penny featuring King George VI

The first Canadian cent was minted in 1858 and had a diameter of 25.4 millimetres (1.00 in) and a weight of 4.54 grams (0.160 oz). These cents were originally issued to bring some kind of order to the Canadian monetary system, which, until 1858, relied on British coinage, bank and commercial tokens (francophones calling them sous, a slang term that survives), U.S. currency and Spanish milled dollars. The coin's specifications were chosen with the intention of the coins also being useful as measuring tools. However, their light weight compared to the bank and merchant halfpenny tokens readily available at the time was a serious hindrance to their acceptance by the public. Some of the coins were even sold at a 20% discount, and were inherited by the Dominion government in 1867. Fresh production of new cents (with the weight increased to 5.67 grams (0.200 oz)) was not required until 1876.[9] The large cents of 1858–1920 were significantly larger than modern one cent coins, having a diameter of 1 inch (25 mm), which is slightly larger than the modern 25¢ piece (its diameter being 23.58 millimetres or 0.928 inches). After Confederation, these coins were struck on the planchet of the British halfpenny and were roughly the same value. Pennies were issued sporadically in the third quarter of the 19th century. They were used in the Province of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia upon Confederation in 1867. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia had issued their own coinage prior to that date, with British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland continuing to issue "pennies" until they joined Confederation. The coin was reduced in size to its current size to match the size of the American penny.[10]

1936 dot cent

The rare 1936 dot cent is as notable in Canadian numismatics as the 50¢ piece of 1921. There were four minted specimens of this coin, produced with the dot to show they were made in 1937 while the mint was waiting for new dies due to a delay caused by the abdication of King Edward VIII and the need to create new dies for his successor, George VI. The last one sold at Heritage Auctions in January 2010 for over US$400,000 (this does not include taxes). It was graded specimen 66 by the Professional Coin Grading Service. Three known examples are in private collections, making it one of the few coins lacking in the Ottawa Currency Museum.

1947 Maple Leaf issue

In contrast to the 1936 issues, the 1948 cents dated 1947 and specially marked are very common. These 1947 Maple Leaf coins were made while the dies were being changed to show George VI was no longer Emperor of India, as the title of "Emperor of India" was dropped from the titles of the Crown per article 7.2 of the Parliament of the United Kingdom's Indian Independence Act 1947.

Composition throughout history

Years Mass Diameter/Shape Composition[11]
2000–2012 * 2.35 g 19.05 mm (34 inch), round 94% steel, 1.5% nickel, 4.5% copper plating
1997–1999 * 2.25 g 19.05 mm (34 inch), round 98.4% zinc, 1.6% copper plating
1982–1996 2.5 g 19.05 mm (34 inch), 12-sided 98% copper, 1.75% tin, 0.25% zinc
1980–1981 2.8 g 19.05 mm (34 inch), round 98% copper, 1.75% tin, 0.25% zinc
1978–1979 3.24 g 19.05 mm (34 inch), round 98% copper, 1.75% tin, 0.25% zinc
1942–1977 3.24 g 19.05 mm (34 inch), round 98% copper, 0.5% tin, 1.5% zinc
1920–1941 3.24 g 19.05 mm (34 inch), round 95.5% copper, 3% tin, 1.5% zinc
1876–1920 5.67 g 25.4 mm (1 inch), round 95.5% copper, 3% tin, 1.5% zinc
1858–1859 4.54 g 25.4 mm (1 inch), round 95% copper, 4% tin, 1% zinc (bronze)

From May 2006 to October 2008, all circulation Canadian pennies from 1942 to 1996 had a melt value of over $0.02 CAD based on the increasing spot price of copper in the commodity markets. The break-even price for a 2.8 g solid copper penny is $1.61 USD/lb, with prices during this period reaching as high as $4 USD/lb.[12]


There had been repeated debate about getting rid of the penny because of the cost of producing it and a perceived lack of usefulness. In mid-2010 the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance began a study on the future of the one-cent coin.[13] On December 14, 2010, the Senate finance committee recommended[14] the penny be removed from circulation, arguing that a century of inflation had eroded the value and usefulness of the one-cent piece. A 2007 survey indicated that 37 percent of Canadians used pennies, but the government continued to produce about 816 million pennies per year, equal to 24 pennies per Canadian.[15] The Royal Canadian Mint had been forced to produce large numbers of pennies because they disappeared from circulation, as people hoarded these coins or simply avoided using them. In 2011 the Royal Canadian Mint had minted 1.1 billion pennies, more than doubling the 2010 production number of 486.2 million pennies.[16] In late 2010, finance committee members of the Canadian Senate estimated that the average Canadian had as many as 600 pennies hoarded away, taken out of circulation.[14]

On March 29, 2012, the federal government announced in its budget[17] that it would withdraw the penny from circulation in the fall of 2012. The budget announcement eliminating the penny cited the cost of producing it at 1.6 cents.[17] The final penny was minted at the RCM's Winnipeg, Manitoba plant on the morning of May 4, 2012.[18] Existing pennies will remain legal tender indefinitely;[19] however, pennies were withdrawn from circulation on February 4, 2013.[20] The Currency Act says that "A payment in coins [...] is a legal tender for no more than [...] twenty-five cents if the denomination is one cent."[21]

On February 4, 2013, Google celebrated the beginning of the end for the Canadian penny with a Google Doodle.[22] On the same day the Canadian Mint began melting down the estimated 35 billion pennies that are in circulation.[23]

To allow cash transactions to still take place, they are now rounded to the nearest 5¢.[24]

Commemorative editions

Year Theme Artist Mintage Special notes
1967 Canadian Centennial Alex Colville 345,140,645 Features a rock dove in flight.
1992 Canada 125 G. E. Kruger Gray 673,512,000 Dated as '1867–1992'.
2002 Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II G. E. Kruger Gray 716,367,000 Dated as '1952–2002'.

First strikes

Year Theme Mintage Issue price
2005 First day cover 1,799 $14.95
2006 With new mint mark 5,000 $29.95


See also


  1. CBC News Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. "Eliminating the Penny". Government of Canada. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  3. "Phasing out the Penny". Department of Finance, Government of Canada. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  5. The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins, W.K. Cross, p. 72, The Charlton Press, Toronto, Ontario, ISBN 0-88968-297-6
  7. Mahoney, Jill. "$20 bill's maple leaf isn't Canadian, botanists say". The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  8. Coins of Canada, J.A. Haxby & R.C. Willey, Unitrade Press (2002), ISBN 1-894763-09-2
  9. The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins, W. K. Cross, p. 57, The Charlton Press, Toronto, Ontario, ISBN 0-88968-297-6
  11. "A national symbol–the 1-cent coin". Royal Canadian Mint. Retrieved 2012-01-15.
  12. Kitco – Spot Copper Historical Charts and Graphs – Copper charts – Industrial metals
  14. 1 2 "Penny should be scrapped: Senate panel". CBC News. December 14, 2010. Retrieved March 31, 2012.
  15. "100th anniversary of the Canadian penny" (PDF). Desjardins Group. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
  16. "Canada's penny withdrawal: All you need to know". CBC News. April 2, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  17. 1 2 "Budget 2012: Chapter 5: Responsible Management to Return to Balanced Budgets". Government of Canada. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
  18. "Canada's Last Penny: Final Cent Struck In Winnipeg Friday As Currency Killed". Canadian Press/Huffington Post Canada. 2012-05-04. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
  19. "The penny's days are numbered". CBC. 2012-03-29. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  20. Pedwell, Terry (30 July 2012). "A penny saved: Canadian coin to stick around until 2013". The Vancouver Sun. The Canadian Press. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  21. "Canada Currency Act". Retrieved 2012-10-26.
  22. "Canadian penny honoured with Google Doodle". The Toronto Star. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  23. "A penniless Canada: Mint begins years-long process of collecting and melting down 82-million kg in coins". The National Post. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  24. "Phasing out the penny - Rounding". Royal Canadian Mint. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
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