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Craig and Marc Kielburger

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How Your Pennies Can Make Change

Posted: 02/05/2013 7:32 am

It's time to dig deep, Canada.

We're not talking deep into your pockets. Unless your pockets are strangely filled with pennies, in which case we're talking about your pockets.

But we're really talking about digging deep into your underwear drawers, the gaps between your couch cushions, and behind your kitchen appliances. Your sister's closet, your boyfriend's musty old wallet, and your dad's long-forgotten "workbench" covered with jars of nails, screws and parts of G.I. Joe.

We're talking about digging up every last, lost penny you and everyone you know has ever tossed aside. Sure, at the time these tiny pieces of copper, and more recently steel coated in copper, weren't worth enough to buy so much as a string of delicious candy licorice.

But for one week -- this week, Monday February 4 to Friday February 9 -- those precious discarded coins are worth the world.

As part of Free The Children and RBC's We Create Change campaign to provide 100,000 people in the developing world with life-saving access to clean water, the Canadian penny has a renewed lease on life.

RBC branches across Canada will accept all your found pennies -- no matter how many you have, no matter what kind of container you bring them in, no matter where you found them -- and donate them directly to Free The Children's water programs overseas.

For every $25 worth of pennies collected, Free The Children estimates that one person can be given clean water for the rest of their life.

Last year alone, the Royal Canadian Mint made over 662-million pennies. So we know they're out there. And we know that you know where they are.

So, sure, the government has now officially stopped making pennies, sending this maple-leafed icon into a well-deserved retirement after 155 years in active circulation. But the great Canadian penny can still make change.

We have a cent-imental story from Bill Brulée and Sandy Quarters of how you can say farewell to all those pennies you find in the couch cushions.

Craig and Marc Kielburger are founders of international charity and educational partner, Free The Children. Its youth empowerment event, We Day, is in eight cities across Canada this year, inspiring more than 100,000 attendees. For more information, visit www.weday.com

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  • When Does It End?

    The Royal Canadian Mint stopped making new pennies in May, 2012, after the government announced in its spring budget it’s discontinuing the coin. On February 4, 2013, the Mint will stop distributing pennies to financial institutions, marking an official end to the era of the penny. But pennies will still be around, and will only fully disappear as stores stop using them over time.

  • Do I Have To Stop Using Pennies?

    No. You can keep using pennies for as long as you want, but stores will no longer have to accept them. As time goes on, it will become harder and harder to use pennies as fewer and fewer stores accept them.

  • How Will Prices Change?

    They won’t. Or at least they shouldn’t. The idea of “one cent” isn’t going away — a store can still advertise something as costing 99 cents, even if you can’t pay that price physically. It’s only at the point of sale that prices will be rounded up, once taxes and everything else have been calculated.

  • How Will Rounding Work?

    Any price that doesn’t end in a five or a zero will have to be rounded up or down. The Mint has released a set of guidelines for this. If a price is a few cents above a five or zero, you round down; otherwise you round up. So if something costs $1.01 or $1.02, the price become $1.00. If something costs $1.03 or $1.04, it becomes $1.05. But these are guidelines, not the law, and some stores may choose to simply round up for everything.

  • What About Credit And Debit Cards?

    For electronic transactions, cheques and money orders, nothing will change. A $1.03 purchase on Interac will still cost you $1.03.

  • Are We Ready For This?

    Maybe. Almost. According to a survey from the Retail Council of Canada, nearly a quarter of Canadian retailers say they’re not prepared for the switch, with another quarter uncertain. So prepare for the possibility of a few glitches here and there at the checkout line, as retailers adjust to the new reality.

  • Has Anyone Tried This Before?

    Sure. Australia got rid of its penny in 1966, when it switched from the Australian pound to the Australian dollar. The land down under has been doing nicely with five-cent pieces ever since. And over the years countries have often eliminated their smallest currency denominations as inflation ate into their value.

  • Will My Pennies Be Worth More Once The Penny Is Eliminated?

    It’s inevitable that pennies will go up in value as they become historical artifacts. But don’t expect them to make you a millionaire anytime soon. There are literally billions and billions of Canadian pennies out there, with a market value of about 1.5 cents each, based on their metal content. It will take many years for pennies to become valuable collectors’ items. But the pennies in your pocket are actually already worth more than their face value, thanks to the high price of metals in recent years. One of the main reasons for discontinuing the penny is that it costs more to produce than it’s worth. So if nothing else, you can always sell a penny for scrap metal, and make a (tiny) profit.

  • How Can I Get Rid Of My Pennies?

    If you’re not interested in collecting pennies on the chance they’ll go up in value, you can take them to your local bank. They’ll pay you for the pennies’ value in a larger denomination, and send the pennies along to the government, which will in turn reimburse the bank.

  • How Many Pennies Are They Taking Out Of Circulation?

    The Royal Canadian Mint says it’s nearly impossible to tell how many pennies there are in circulation, because of hoarding by consumers. But in recent years more than 800 million pennies were minted per year, typically, though the numbers fluctuated wildly. In 2011, the Mint issued 1.1 billion pennies, up from 486 million the year before. So it’s fair to say there are billions and billions of them out there. Pictured: Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, with Ian Bennett, president and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint

  • What Coin Will They Get Rid Of Next?

    It will probably be some time before Canada eliminates another coin denomination, but there is already chatter out there about <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/02/canadian-penny-nickel-discontinued_n_2396990.html">the nickel being more trouble than it’s worth....</a>


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