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Centless Future?
March 30, 2012

Canada will abolish its cent this year. The last coins will come off the Royal Canadian Mint presses in the autumn it has announced.

Canadians will have to get used to a system of rounding in their cash transactions that will be employed when the coins disappear from circulation.

Amounts that end in 1 cent or 2 cents will be rounded down. Amounts that end in 3 cents or 4 cents will be rounded up to the next 5 cents.

Payments by check, credit or debit card can be to the penny.

The United States could ask for no better timing for this change.

The U.S. Mint must submit a report to Congress on the future of American coinage early next year. Just like Canada, our cent costs more to make than its face value and our nickel, too.

Will the American Congress look north to assess the Canadian experience to make a judgment based on flinty-eyed cost analysis as the Canadian federal Parliament is about to do?

For the Canadians, the 1.6 cent cost of each cent is too much.

In the United States, the cost of the cent already has ballooned to 2.41 cents each.

Our nickel costs 11.18 cents.

If the past is any guide, there is no reason to assume that the United States will follow the Canadian example.

In 1987 Canada abolished the paper dollar and introduced a new circulating $1 coin.

The United States did not.

In 1996 Canada abolished the $2 bill and introduced a $2 coin.

The United States did not.

Now Canada is about to act on the issue of the 1 cent coin.

What will the United States do?

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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