The Canadian penny went out to accolades, fond memories and live, national television coverage.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, alongside Francois Gendron, set-up operator at the Royal Canadian Mint, pushed the buttons and the final penny fell into a glass bowl on Friday.
“It kinda touched the heart a bit to see the last penny struck,” said Gendron, who has been working at Winnipeg’s Mint for 34 years. “But it’s reality.”
Gendron recalled as a boy being able to buy “a lot of candy” with pennies found on the streets. Those days, he said, are in the past.
Flaherty also remembered fondly the days when pennies had more purchasing power and did not cost the government more money to produce than what they’re worth, which today stands at a 1.6-cent production cost for one penny.
He said the government will save $11 million a year of taxpayers’ money by no longer pressing pennies.
Both Flaherty and St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover urged Canadians to donate their pennies to charities such as Habitat for Humanity.
“I can think of no better tribute for this historic coin,” added Flaherty.
Sandy Hopkins, CEO of Habitat for Humanity in Manitoba, said his organization is very appreciative of this opportunity and every cent will go towards building homes.
“It costs individuals very little but collectively will have a huge impact on the community,” he said. “It means another five or six dozen homes could be built across the country.”
The ceremony at the Mint drew dozens of people, who watched through the first and second-floor windows that separate the visitors’ area from the production side.
Rolena Krawec and granddaughter Breanna Parbst were two of those onlookers who happened to be visiting family in Winnipeg when they found out about the ceremony by text message.
“We decided, ‘Yeah, that’s history, we gotta go,’ so we jumped in the car and came,” said Krawec, who lives in Weirdale, Sask. “I felt incredibly lucky to be here for this historic moment. It’s not often one gets to participate in Canadian history.”
The last penny will be entrusted to the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada in Ottawa, while the final million coins struck before it are to be sold as collectors’ items, said Ian Bennett, president and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint.
Flaherty said no jobs will be lost at the Mint due to the end of the penny, and also announced on Friday that the Mint had secured a deal to make 40 million coins for Ghana.
The last penny was pressed at the Winnipeg plant because it is responsible for the production of circulation coins. The other plant, in Ottawa, makes special edition coins.
According to the Royal Canadian Mint, since the first penny was produced in 1908, 35 billion pennies have been minted in Canada.