See a penny, pick it up, the singsong expression goes, all day long you’ll have good luck.
That adage, presumably, will only become more meaningful as time increasingly steals the fortune-granting tokens in question from circulation.
On February 4, the Royal Canadian Mint rolled the last of of its humble pennies off the production line, thus rendering a nation — or at least its more sentimental citizens — with hearts as heavy as their pockets once were.
The damn things cost too much to make, the feds complained (each pence rings in at 1.6 cents in production). And, besides, their monetary denomination is negligible in a world where stuff costs more by the day (inflation has reduced the penny’s purchasing power by 95% since it was first minted domestically; in 1908, a cent could buy goods that would cost 20 cents today).
But for that segment of the professional population for whom a relationship with the penny is an intimate, regular, complicated business — namely, retailers and the individuals who man their coin-shifting tills — this development is a significant one. Hundreds, nay, thousands of times a day these souls’ fingers caress the penny’s bright face, relishing the maple leaf relief that is so emblematic of the country it’s so ably served since its 1858 introduction.
In theory, although the one-cent piece will still be considered legal tender, this means retailers will no longer distribute it as change. It also means that prices will round up or down, precision at the cash register will become a thing of the past and the copper-coloured tradition that had endured since the day when the rotary washing machine was all the rage will simply jingle into oblivion.
In practical terms, though, it’ll mean finding another use for the newly vacant cubby in the register drawer (peanut butter M&Ms seem a reasonable alternative). But what of the vacant cubby in our hearts?