Jim Flaherty, Canadian Finance Minister and Minister responsible for the Royal Canadian Mint, holds the last penny produced at the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg, May 4, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Fred Greenslade
Friday marked the end of the line for the Canadian penny, and the Royal Canadian Mint commemorated the production of the final one-cent piece with a ceremonial coin strike at the Winnipeg facility.
Spectators packed a gallery overlooking the coin-making plant and workers lined up to watch Finance Minister Jim Flaherty press a button to make Canada's last penny.
It costs 1.6 cents to produce a penny, the mint said. The federal government announced the penny's fate in the March budget, noting a savings of $11 million a year when production ends.
"The time has come to make the sensible decision to end production of the coin, which is underused by Canadians and no longer vital to commerce, and ultimately, a burden on Canada's balance sheet," Flaherty said.
Some visitors to the mint seemed to agree -- the penny has passed its prime.
"Progress. Move on," said Denise Gander.
Ted Kosowan was visiting the mint to look at silver coins and managed to catch the ceremonial coin strike.
"They stamp billions and billions, but they get stuck in jars and don't make it back into circulation. And it's when it's costing almost twice as much to make it, it makes no sense," Kosowan said.
Still, even the minister behind the change shared some sentimental thoughts about the penny and how far it went.
"We bought bubble gum with pennies, my brothers, my sisters and I," said Flaherty.
Francois Gendron, a 34-year veteran of the mint, helped strike the last penny.
"It's kind of sad to see it go... When you're a kid, you start collecting pennies, or when you see a penny on the ground, run to the corner store. But what are you going to do? Part of history now," he said.
Pennies will gradually be withdrawn from circulation, but consumers can use them indefinitely.
As for the final Canadian penny ever produced, it will be placed at the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada in Ottawa.