To be honest, I am completely ambivalent about retiring the Canadian Penny. I was inspired to write this article when I began to consider the nearly two decades I have spent in customer service of one stripe or another. Although, I became fairly adept at balancing my cash at the end of the day, I got to thinking about what effect phasing out the penny would have on those slight overages and shortages experienced by businesses every year. Let’s say for example, you run Caffeine Crazed Coffee Consortium or C4 (my dream name if I were to ever open my own coffee shop). On Monday, after shutting your doors, you find yourself over by a few cents. Tuesday, you are short. You get the picture. By Sunday, your overage and shortages due to pennies averages out to be about $.27. If you multiply that by 52 weeks/year, you lose a whopping $14.04. Say my C4 chain is super successful; and I manage to create a 100 franchises across Canada. This $14.04 becomes $1404. According to Wikipedia, Tim Hortons has 3355 stores across Canada as of July 2012. That weekly $.27 becomes a loss of $47,104.20!! Donuts cost about a dollar, so that is 47,104 rings of deliciousness.
So, will rounding up or down to an increment of $.05 make a significant difference to the bottom line? I say, “absolutely”!! Here is why. Most retail food and beverage business are staffed with young people, who have lots of things on their mind, and at times, the least of which is the job at hand. Having an 11 year old and a 9 year old in my house has taught me that it is easier to teach a kid their 5 and 10 times table than to teach them their 3,4,6,7,8 or 9 times table. Simple math errors are less likely to occur when using multiples of 5. So, of course, time will tell, but it seems as though cash handling just got easier without the penny. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have been given a blank stare when told my bill comes to 3.64 and I give them $5.14 to get a nice, round $1.50 in change. Of course, time will tell, but I am interested to see what will come of the penny retirement.
Let’s now consider how much copper the Canadian Mint stands to recycle. I have done a whole bunch of interesting math on spreadsheets figure out how much copper is tied up in pennies. In summary, since 1908, Canada has produced close to 35 billion pennies. The percentage of copper in a given penny is dependent upon when that penny was made. Up until 1996, pennies contained over 95% copper. After 1996, pennies were only between 2 and 5% copper in the form of copper plating. I was able to access the number of pennies produced per year since 1908 and determine the amount of copper/grams per penny. I did this for every year up until 2011 to reach a truly staggering number. If we were to collect every penny ever produced since 1908 and recycle the copper, we would end up with 1.15 billion kilograms of copper. The Canadian Mint is not able to report the amount of pennies they have reclaimed to date, but think about all that copper!
According to Geology.com, the average car contains between 44 and 99 pounds (20-45 kg) of copper. Copper is used in electrical wiring as well. With the growing industrialization of some third world countries, the demand for world copper is going to soar. The Statue of Liberty has 80 tons of copper. All of the reclaimed Canadian pennies could make almost 16000 copies of the Statue of Liberty.
And that, is my two cents worth!