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Farewell, Cent Piece
By Dr. R.S. “Bart” Bartanowicz, Coins Magazine
May 08, 2013

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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It was 1957 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Some coin collectors were chatting away in a small hobby shop called “Bud’s” on Andrews Avenue. Our “young numismatist” was standing off to the side listening to the conversation. He was at Bud’s not to talk about coins but to purchase a hot new Fox 35 Combat Special engine for his model airplane.

He was holding a couple of folders that contained his Canadian coin collection. If things went well he might be able to trade in his collection to help defer some of the cost of the engine.

An elderly collector in his 30s looked at him asking, “You’re a coin collector, young fellow? What’s that you’ve got?”

He explained that he had been collecting Canadian coins at Food Fair (a 1950s Florida grocery chain) where he had an after school job as a grocery bagger.

“The bank wants them sorted out. The store lets me have them at face value and I pick out the nice ones for my collection. I’ve got a nice group of Canadian pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, mostly from the 1940s and 1950s. I was hoping to trade them in on a new model airplane engine.”

The elderly collector winked, saying, “Young fellow, I think that Canadian coins are going to appreciate in value. You might want to hold on to them.”

The young fellow (yep, it was me) took a step backward.

“I need a new engine. I’ll be flying my model airplane at the Florida Model Aeronautics Championship. I still have other coins.”

The elderly 30 year old sighed.

“When you crash that model airplane you won’t have a thing to show for it.” Before thinking, he said, “That’s exactly what my mom said.”

This brought out snickers from the other collectors as they looked at their now red-faced friend.

Our young numismatist extracted himself from the situation saying, “Here comes Bud with my engine, I need to go.”

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Bud wasn’t interested in the Canadian coins. All was not lost, though, as Bud said, “Tell you what. You’re always polite and respectful. I’m going to give you 15 percent off of the list price for the engine. How does that sound?”

Needless to say, our young numismatist was thrilled. He had put a lot of effort in building his Canadian collection and letting go wouldn’t have been easy.

Here we are some 56 years later. Did I hold on to my Canadian coins and did they increase in value? Well, I kept waiting for the coins to appreciate in value. The collection was attractive, but my downfall was that I never did pick up any of the better dates or better grade coins.

I eventually traded the entire collection for two fairly nice common-date Standing Liberty quarters. I think I made a good deal.

How did I do at the state championship flying my Fox 35 Combat Special powered aircraft? I ended up with a second-place trophy. I was happy.

We are all witnesses to numismatic history with the Canadian government putting an end to manufacturing the cent for circulation. Eliminating a denomination is not something that happens very often. The coins will still be accepted in commerce for the near future.

I am quite envious of our friends to the north, as they will be spared the burden of carrying all those pennies. Of course our Canadian friends will still have lots of change in their pockets such as the dollar coins or “loonies’ as they call them.

There will probably be a degree of nostalgia for the humble Canadian penny. I’m sure many Canadian collectors got their start by collecting cents. There may even be a renewed interest to assemble one-cent collections, or at least type set collections. The Royal Canadian Mint has already issued legacy or memorial sets for collectors. Most heartwarming is the fact that Canadians are not taking to the streets protesting the demise of the humble cent.

Our friends to the north seem to take changes to their monetary system a lot easier than we do such as when they eliminated the dollar bill in favor of a coin. My Canadian friends here in Florida, who are winter residents, just shrug indifferently when I ask them how they feel about the demise of the penny. One clever fellow remarked, “If I get nostalgic I can always collect Lincoln cents during my annual visit and even bring some back to Ontario for my grandchildren.”

On this side of the border, I would like for us to follow Canada’s lead. I wouldn’t miss the Lincoln cent.

Any numismatic yearning could be satisfied by the U.S. Mint issuing the Lincoln cent as an annual non-circulating commemorative. I would also not mind Lincoln replacing Jefferson on the nickel.

Oops! No disrespect to Thomas Jefferson. I don’t want to start a numismatic war between Illinois and Virginia. On the other hand, this could be interesting.



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