Canada recently decided to stop making pennies. “What will they do?” Apollonia wondered.



“Presumably,” I said, “they will start rounding prices at the five-cent point.”



She grimaced. “I wouldn’t like that.”



“No one much cares what you’d like,” I said. “Pennies are a curiosity, a thing of the past. Get modern, babe.”



In Tunisia we had aluminum coins worth five millimes: five one-thousandths of a dinar, less than an American penny in those days. It was the smallest change available on a daily basis. Street vendors sold single cigarettes for a few of those coins, which were called “durus.” Quite a few people didn’t bother to spend them.  I knew people who had huge jars full of them. Some people actually threw them away.



Smaller coins – worth one or two millimes – were available, but you seldom saw them. Everything in the market was generally priced in a rounded amount – 1 dinar 500 millimes – but your electric bill was always precise: 7 dinars 879 millimes. And, when you paid it (say, with a ten-dinar note), they gave you exact change, in coins smaller than the nail of your little finger.



Ah! That was fun.



Also back in those days, when the Italian lira was 2000 to the American dollar, they gave you change in hard candy. If your change came to 25 or 30 lira, they’d gesture to the bowl of hard candy on the counter and say, “Take one!”


All things considered, Canadians (and Americans, eventually) can live without the penny.



Who doesn’t like a little piece of candy once in a while?



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

2 Responses to Pennies

  1. starproms says:

    Yes, U.S. coinage needs to change. Also you need a coin for a dollar now, don’t you. A dollar buys very little these days. Same here: we need to ditch the penny and the two penny piece. Neither buy anything worth having. There may be a small copper content? if so, that would be worth having because over here thieves are stripping church roofs (rooves) to get the copper off!

    • We do have dollar coins, but no one likes them, for some reason. Vending machines almost never accept them, for one thing; for another, cashiers often don’t even recognize them. I like them, and I wish they’d catch on. Tunisia, back in the 1980s, had both bills and coins for the middling denominations, and they were both fine.

      But the penny needs to be gotten rid of. I believe the metal in an American penny is worth more than a penny at the moment – so there you go.

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