Penny distribution ceases, but options exist

Feb 5, 2013 | Biz/Tech


By Amber Daugherty

After the Royal Canadian Mint made the move Monday to stop distributing pennies, many Canadians are left wondering what to do with the copper coins in their possession.

While some banks are offering free coin-rolling this week, there are also some more creative ideas.

Here are some options for penny-wise consumers:


Businesses have posted signs warning they will no longer be accepting pennies in the near future, or giving any back.

Some places like Mac’s convenience stores in Ontario display notices from the government saying the new guidelines are to round up or down, depending on the price of the purchase. Their software has already been changed, and their tills display the new total, rounded to the nearest nickel.

But since these are just guidelines, store owners are free to do what they please.

Shelley Town, who owns a design-oriented store on Bloor West, told Humber News she’s making her own rule. She’s implementing a rounding down policy, so no matter what the price, the customer will never have to pay more than the total. The guidelines suggest rounding up when the price comes to 3, 4, 8 or 9 cents.

“I just don’t feel that we should be charging people more which is basically what we’d be doing if we were rounding up,” Town said.

Town, whose store sells greeting cards, wrapping paper and unique gifts. said she’s able to make this decision because very few transactions at the store are cash.

“If you were a corner store it might be a different story because so many of their transactions are in cash,” she said. “For us, we find it’s debit and credit cards mostly.”


When federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty made the announcement last March that pennies would cease being circulated, many charities took notice.

Shana Hillman, manager of events, stewardships and volunteers at Toronto’s YWCA, told Humber News the YWCA fleshed out their campaign the day after Flaherty announced the news. Their campaign is raising money to fund their own programs that ‘empower and support girls.’

Hillman said they’ve seen a number of pennies donated – 55,000 actually, to this point, though now that distribution of the coins by the Mint has ceased, there should be a dramatic increase.

“I think the penny campaign has been slow because people didn’t want to believe it was really happening,” she said.

“Now it’s going to hit home with people. I think we’re going to see a flood of pennies coming in.”

Another charity, Free the Children, also has an initiative running called We Create Change. It was started in September and is running until June.

People are being asked to fill $25 penny bags (that can be ordered from the charity’s website) with pennies and take them into any of that bank’s outlets. The idea is that 2,500 pennies – $25 – is enough to provide clean water for one person for their lifetime, the charity says on its website. The goal is to raise enough money to give 100,000 people in developing countries with clean water for life.

The drive has been mainly led by young people. It was started at We Day events last fall, and students have run with it since. Last night, it was announced 70 million pennies have been collected – more than $700,000.

Tamara Kaftalovich, director of public relations and publicity for Free the Children, told Humber News on Tuesday she’s been impressed by the dedication and drive shown so far in the campaign.

“It’s pretty interesting when you take a step back and look at the simplicity of the penny and the actual change it can create when you have thousands of young people coming together across Canada.”

This week, RBC is hosting a “loose penny drop-off,” where anyone can walk into any RBC branch and drop off as many pennies as they have. Any other time expect for this week and next, someone must use the special $25 penny bags to contribute to the drive.


For those people who have jars full of pennies – and time on their hands – the sky is the limit.

Jim Roe, general manager of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in downtown Toronto, decided to use pennies for a home improvement project.

He said he wasn’t too fond of stone behind a fireplace in his house. So, he decided to undertake a DIY project, replacing the stone with pennies.

“I just kind of devised the method of fabrication and set out buying the materials and figuring it out and away I went,” Roe told Humber News.

And go he did – multiple times to the hardwood store to stock up on materials. It took him plywood, strong carpenter’s glue, a paint roller, 22 hours and a grand total of 11,966 pennies to come up with the finished product – a gleaming, reflective, copper background for his fireplace.

“I’m very happy,” he said. “It’s a nice conversation piece when people come over.”

Heidi Den Hartog from Peterborough, meanwhile, took a different approach to the DIY penny idea.

She’s a copper-and-enamel artist with a soft spot for the copper coin, and decided to use them in a project in her city’s upcoming Wearable Arts Show fundraiser.

Den Hartog took 1,800 pennies and made a dress out of them. The dress was made for her 21-year-old daughter who will be modeling the dress this weekend at the show.

Photo from Heidi Den Hartog

Photo from Heidi Den Hartog

She said she’s calculated the dress weighs about 12 lbs, and though it’s not uncomfortable to wear, she said her daughter compares it to wearing a corset.

When asked whether she would consider making another one – if the dress is a hit at the show this weekend – she said she would, though she would change up the design.

“It’s a mini skirt and a top and a belt that goes around it,” she said. “I had to keep it fairly short because of the weight.”

But this dress, in its coppery brilliance, is sure to draw some curious looks at the show.

“It makes a statement about art and that art can be created from something simple as what lays around your house,” she said.

“That’s similar to life – you sometimes see something interesting or beautiful in things that you don’t expect.”